Columbia Pulp to stop operations


February 17, 2022

-File photo

The Columbia Pulp plant near Starbuck in Columbia County will idle operations on February 18, 2022, due to challenges that face a "first-of-its-kind" technology, according to Terry Ryan, Interim CEO. Some 80 employees and associated companies and ag producers will be affected.

DAYTON–Columbia Pulp, LLC will idle operations as of February 18, 2022, an action that will affect approximately 80 employees who work primarily in its headquarters in Dayton and its plant located at Lyons Ferry in northern Columbia County.

"Being a first-of-its-kind application with this type of technology has not been without challenges," said Terry Ryan, Columbia Pulp's Interim CEO. "And while this is normal for a company at the forefront in developing a product like this, to continue on we must make these hard choices while we evaluate our options going forward."

The majority of the plant production is expected to pause in second quarter with a small staff that will remain to handle daily business operations, the Columbia Pulp release indicated. Support will be provided to employees in terms of transition and employee assistance.

More than a decade ago, Columbia Pulp was founded with a vision to utilize wheat straw to create an alternative fiber pulp that would leverage opportunities for paper and packaging applications while driving significant improvements in sustainability both locally and for its customers, the news release stated. The company went on to become North America's first tree-free pulp mill.

"We are acutely aware that this has wide-reaching impacts on many people–our valued employees and their families, farm suppliers, and the communities in which we operate," Ryan said. "The Columbia Pulp team is talented and dedicated, and we are committed to assisting them through this transition.

"We know that the work of all of our employees helped pave the way for an alternative fiber option in our target markets and will have a lasting impact," he said. "We believe in this vision and what it means for the future of sustainability in the pulp and paper industry."

The plant, which has the capability to daily process 100 tons of small-grains straw into pulp for further processing by paper-industry manufacturers, was shut down in April, 2020, by Governor Jay Inslee's "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" emergency order. It restarted operations in June, 2021.

Construction of the $184 million pioneering plant, based on a proprietary process developed by William McKean, Ph.D. and Mark Lewis, started in the fall of 2017 at a site west of Starbuck, near Lyons Ferry.

The corporate offices are in the former Columbia REA building at 164 E. Main St. in Dayton.


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