Clallam EDC Executive Director Colleen McAleer recently spoke with Ted Marra, Project Manager of West End Forest Industries (WEFI), via her weekly Zoom program, about their new mill project plans in Beaver and Forks.
Sustainable Green Team (SGT) expects to source primarily Douglas fir and hemlock from local landowners and the Department of Natural Resources for their WEFI mill.
At full capacity, this mill will have a robust production capacity, with world-class productivity and lumber recovery, and a competitive product mix.
Marra has a long background in the milling industry. His home is on the east coast but he will be calling Forks home for the next few years as he prepares the Beaver and Forks properties to get back to work.
“We have a massive infrastructure, in good shape,” Marra said, adding it would have cost millions to get to this point and after an analysis of the Beaver property, the sale for the Beaver site closed last March.
Since then Marra has been working to get the Beaver site to 2022 standards. “All required permits have been applied for and a couple are back and a couple are pending,” Marra said.
Marra said that the new operation will use some of the existing machinery; such as the edger and sorter, and he has also been scouring the country looking for other needed equipment, that can be rebuilt and reused. “I love rebuilding equipment,” Marra said, adding that the mill will offer quite the significant production to the tune of 100 million board feet of finished product per year.
Marra said the new mill will be state of the art, featuring scanning and trimming technology. New controls and electronics with a “central brain” will run the mill.
The new mill has partnered with USNR out of Woodland, WA, Marra described them as premier sawmill manufacturers for support and parts for the machinery that will be used. “Most of the machines are their brands, and cutting edge,” Marra added.
USNR describes itself as the world’s largest, most comprehensive supplier of equipment and technologies for the wood processing industry.
“We are tooling for a bit larger log,” Marra said, with all parts of the log being utilized.
Marra said he had recently traveled to Jacksonville, FL to negotiate for a modern dry kiln, that will be fired by green sawdust produced at the operation.
The permitting process has been challenging and slow according to Marra.
He described the 41-acre site at Beaver as very well used for industry over the past 50 years and even further back in time for Spruce production for the war effort. “Our challenge has been the proximity to Lake Pleasant, and we are sensitive to that,” Marra said.
He added that they will not allow anything into the Lake or waterways and are working with engineers to deal with storm water and redirect it to the other side of the property. The water will be filtered and 99.9 percent will go back into the ground. Marra said they also have been working with the Quileute tribe to assure them of their intentions to keep all storm water on-site.
“We needed our general permit before we could start digging test holes,” Marra stated, to understand the drainage. “We need some rain, when the ground is saturated, before digging our test holes.”
The new operation will also not access water from the lake for fire suppression as the previous mill did. An above-ground tank and pumps will be installed for that purpose.
With the permitting process slow, Marra said the timeline for start-up has been changed and delayed and it looks like 2024, with some equipment up and running in 2023.
The new mill operation will also see the use of the Forks Industrial Park where formerly Interfor had a presence.
That site located near the “A” Road, was initially developed in the early 1990s and Portac was the initial tenant.
The site also had a 10-year moratorium on any other milling operation taking place there. Interfor agreed to release that prohibition for SGT.
Some permits are still needed for the Forks site.
Marra said work is currently being done on both sites, which have sat idle for a time, resulting in the need for some clearing of brush and alder, as well as clearing ditches.
When fully up and running Marra estimates that the operation will employ about 50 people per shift.