Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz announced that more than $3.5 million in investments from the Department of Natural Resource, with the majority coming to Grays Harbor and Pacific County.
- Reopening a hardwood mill owned by the Port of Willapa Harbor in Pacific County, a project that will create 49 jobs,
- Helping oyster growers in Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor deal with the problem of burrowing ghost shrimp, which will protect 1,840 jobs,
- Constructing a derelict vessel removal and recycling facility at the Port of Ilwaco, which will create 15 jobs, and
- Setting up a learning laboratory at Kalama Middle-High School to prepare interested students for careers in forest management.
These funds will go to four projects that were chosen out of over 80 different proposals.
“For too many in our rural economies, the status quo isn’t working,” said Hilary Franz, Commissioner of Public Lands. “People are hurting, but they are resilient. And we are investing in our people.
1. Reopening a Hardwood Mill (Raymond, WA)
In Pacific County, which has the third highest unemployment rate in the state (7.4%), a lumber mill owned by the Port of Willapa Harbor sits abandoned.
DNR is partnering with the state legislature to make a $1.5 million investment to get the mill back up and running. Retrofits to make use of small diameter alder are just one of the innovations that will make the mill viable again.
- $553,000 to assist with startup costs,
- $500,000 for a new small log system, and
- $345,000 to debt-secure the sawmill.
Known as the “New Pacific Hardwoods Mill,” this venture will generate an estimated 49 new jobs. And, each year, it will generate $9.5 million in log purchases and $98,000 in tax revenue.
In addition, DNR will work with the Port of Willapa Harbor and Evergreen State College Center for Sustainable Infrastructure to determine the economic feasibility of an energy innovation district (EID). An EID allows businesses to share energy and reuse waste streams, which will attract new and existing business to locate near the mill. DNR will administer a $100,000 grant for this work.
“This is what rural community partnership is about – putting lumber mill workers back to work making products out of sustainably harvested trees,” said Commissioner Franz.
“This project will have a positive impact on our community and our state,” said State Senator Dean Takko (D-Longview). “By reopening a hardwood mill, we are creating jobs and a new supply of locally-sourced wood products.”
“The Port of Willapa Harbor seeks to be a conduit for economic opportunities – whether that means timber or renewable fuel sources,” said ReBecca Chaffee, Manager, Port of Willapa Harbor. “More mill jobs right away is a big deal. And, the potential of an energy innovation district – when we have ready access to wood, agricultural waste and other renewable natural resources and byproducts – is a game-changer.”
2. Help for Oyster Growers: Burrowing Shrimp Solutions (Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor, WA)
Willapa Bay produces 25 percent of our country’s oysters, but the future of some family-owned oyster farms is uncertain due to expanding burrowing shrimp populations.
At the request of Willapa-Grays Harbor Oyster Growers Association (WGHOGA) DNR is joining with the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) to research alternative control techniques for burrowing shrimp.
An initial investment of more than $1,000,000 will fund research to:
- Convene key stakeholders to collaboratively review the full body of science and identify gaps,
- Pilot new shrimp control techniques,
- Work with partners on further testing of promising control techniques, including potentially providing grants for control and culture techniques, and
- Identify unused DNR tidelands that could be made available to impacted farmers.
The funding comes from DNR ($65,000), the state legislature ($950,000), and Department of Agriculture (up to $50,000). In addition to tidelands and funding, DNR scientists, land managers, and other staff will assist research efforts.
A new approach to burrowing shrimp management will help protect the jobs of more than 1,840 shellfish industry workers threatened by expanding burrowing shrimp populations.
“There’s no silver bullet here,” said Commissioner Franz. “It’s a mucky situation but, as the manager of significant tidelands in the area and a landlord for many lessees, we’re wading in. We’ve got to explore all options – there are too many livelihoods at risk and communities on the brink not to.”
The research done in southwest Washington will inform oyster farm growers in Puget Sound, where burrowing shrimp populations are also beginning to increase.
“Until now, state leaders have underestimated the potential impact of this problem,” said State Representative Brian Blake (D-Aberdeen). “Now, we are looking forward and moving quickly. This collaborative approach is a good start, and I commend Commissioner Franz and the Department of Agriculture for working with our community to find a solution.”
“The shellfish industry is the largest private employer in rural Pacific County,” said Ken Wiegardt, President, WGHOGA. “Dramatic increases in burrowing shrimp populations threaten the environment and economies in Southwest Washington. This new partnership has the potential to benefit the many residents of Grays Harbor and Pacific County whose livelihoods depend on these jobs. We again want to thank Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz for this opportunity.”
“I am pleased to partner with the Department of Natural Resources on this project and put my agency’s support behind Commissioner Franz’s Rural Communities Partnership Initiative,” WSDA Director Derek Sandison said. “The shellfish industry is a key part of our state’s agriculture industry. It is incumbent upon us as state agencies to do what we can to assist the Willapa Bay shellfish growers in finding workable solutions to the problems that threaten their livelihoods.”
3. Recycling Derelict Vessels (Ilwaco, WA)
DNR is partnering with the Port of Ilwaco to remove derelict vessels from our waterways – there are 150 identified in Washington’s waters – and recycle abandoned boats and ships.
Currently, most derelict vessels are taken to landfills after deconstruction.
The facility, which will support 15 direct and indirect jobs, will also provide maintenance to vessels, thereby reducing the number of vessels that become derelict.
In partnership with the state legislature, $950,000 will build a new derelict vessel deconstruction and recycling facility at the Port of Ilwaco. Investments include:
- $600,000 will fund an enclosed work building for safe deconstruction work,
- $250,000 will replace the storm water system to protect water quality, and
- $100,000 will provide paving and regrading work to protect water quality.
“This is a triple bottom line win,” said Commissioner Franz. “We get toxic waste out of our waters, put people to work, and turn trash into treasure.”
“Port Infrastructure is a good investment,” said State Senator Takko. “By removing and recycling derelict vessels, we clean up our waters and help the Port of Ilwaco create new business and revenue opportunities.”
According to Port of Iwaco Manager Guy Glenn, “Boatyard facilities are often hesitant to destroy vessels due to liability concerns. This leaves vessel owners with few alternatives and, unfortunately, many just walk away. By having this facility, we’ll be able to provide vessel owners with a proactive alternative. We appreciate the support of our elected leaders on this project – it would not be financially possible without them.”
4. Forest Management Learning Laboratory
The Kalama School District is partnering with DNR to connect students with forestry careers by managing a 32-acre forest adjacent to the district’s Middle-High School.
State and private forestry professions are a way for future generations to stay and give back to the rural communities where they grew up. And, often, these positions can be difficult for the DNR and the timber industry to fill.
“We want to create natural resource aspirations in these students,” said Commissioner Franz. ““Working in the forest – whether building a forest road or laying out a timber sale – is not the kind of work you see glamorized in the media.
“But these professional positions are critical to both a solid rural economy and our agency. We want students to know they don’t have to leave the lands they love to have a fulfilling career.”
“We’re very excited about the Rural Communities Partnership Initiative, as it will not only bring industry expertise into our program, but it will be one more opportunity for students to see how their learning about science relates to the real world and careers in fields related to Natural Resources,” said Kalama School District Superintendent Eric Nerison. “The program also helps to leverage the local expertise through partners like RSG Forest Products. We’re looking forward to seeing the learning opportunities and partnerships continue to grow as a result of the program.”