Washington Port Considers Cryptocurrency Mining Lease

Port of Walla Walla officials are mulling a lease for a digital mining operation that would bring an estimated $7 million in investment and as many as 20 jobs.

by Vicki Hillhouse, Walla Walla Union-Bulletin / March 9, 2018
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(TNS) — The cryptocurrency mining boom that’s permeated rural Washington communities may be coming to western Walla Walla County next.

The Port of Walla Walla will consider a land-use agreement with a company that wants to develop a blockchain facility during Port commissioners’ 6 p.m. meeting at 310 A St.

The proposal includes a lease through the end of this year and an option to purchase up to 40 acres between the Dodd Road Industrial Park and Wallula Gap Business Park.

Port officials say the project could bring between $7 million and $10 million of private investment, along with 15-20 new, full-time jobs through bitcoin mining.

It also comes at a time when many communities — including the city of Wenatchee and Chelan County — are stepping back from such cryptocurrency mining developments to assess the operations’ massive demands on electricity.

Those communities have been deluged with requests for blockchain-style mining operations that could have a massive impact on power use and infrastructure for the ever-fluctuating value of bitcoin.

In a nutshell, bitcoin is a type of digital currency that uses encryption techniques to regulate the generation of units, according to a simplified online description. It allows people to buy goods and services and exchange money without involving banks, credit card issuers or other third parties, according to an Associate Press website.

“Miners” use specialized computers to help generate new units of cryptocurrency in developments such as the one proposed. The operations require a lot of electricity to operate — and keep cool — the machines that run all hours.

The availability and relative inexpense of resources in the Pacific Northwest has turned it into a hotbed for these operations at a time when officials are still learning about the impacts on the grid.

Port Executive Director Patrick Reay said his agency has been working with Antcreek LLC for about six months on the development of a blockchain facility.

He said the Port of Walla Walla doesn’t have the same concern over electricity because it is not an electric purveyor.

“Our purpose is to generate assessed value and create jobs,” Reay said.

He said the lease — priced at $4,166.67 per month plus $535 in state leasehold tax — provides time for due diligence, including for Antcreek to work with Walla Walla County Community Development on access to the property that does not currently exist, and other land requirements such as stormwater draining and water connections.

Rent would be applied to the purchase of the land, if Antcreek exercises the option.

The land — known as the “Kelly property” — is southeast of the Dodd Road Industrial Park and bordered on the edge by a Columbia Rural Electric Association substation.

©2018 Walla Walla Union-Bulletin (Walla Walla, Wash.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.