Clearwater Paper plans to use new Lewiston dock to unload sawdust, Lewiston Tribune, Dec. 14, 2016

By ELAINE WILLIAMS of the Tribune

Sawdust for Clearwater Paper will be unloaded from barges at the Port of Lewiston starting this spring.

The commodity will be removed from vessels with a crane and conveyor belts and then trucked a few miles to Clearwater Paper’s Lewiston site, under an agreement approved by Port of Lewiston commissioners at a Tuesday meeting.

“I’m glad they looked at us and were able to figure something out,” said Port Commission President Mike Thomason.

The deal is significant for the port and not just because it’s expected to generate at least $72,000 annually. Use of its dock has been intermittent since the spring of 2015, when ocean-going container carriers stopped regularly calling on the Port of Portland, the transfer point for almost all the cargo that leaves Lewiston by water.

The length of the dock was more than doubled to 270 feet in 2013 with $2.8 million in port and federal dollars in anticipation of increased activity that has yet to materialize.

Clearwater Paper will pay $1,500 for the first four barges each month, and $1,750 for additional barges, with the volume expected to be between four and six per month, said Port Manager David Doeringsfeld.

The barges will start arriving this spring after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finishes major maintenance and upgrades that will force closures at the locks of the eight dams between Lewiston and Portland from Monday through March 20.

The sawdust will be shipped from Columbia City, Ore., downriver from Portland, and will go into pulp at Clearwater Paper that’s made into tissue and paperboard, said Matt Van Vleet, a spokesman for the company.

The sawdust currently is handled by a third-party contractor at the Port of Wilma, just west of Clarkston, where Clearwater Paper also has a log-chipping operation.

Moving the sawdust to the Port of Lewiston brings the process in-house, Van Vleet said. “It’s a cost-savings measure.”

The change is not related to Clearwater Paper’s $160 million upgrade that involves installing a new chip digester to produce pulp, which employs a different process, Van Vleet said.

In other business, port commissioners:

  • Approved an agreement to use about five blocks of conduit in the city of Lewiston on Fifth Street that runs roughly from the dike bypass to F Street at a price of $1,000 a year for 10 years.

The conduit will be used for part of the port’s fiber-optic network that now extends from North Lewiston to the area around Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport. The port wholesales capacity on the network to telecommunications companies that sell their services to Lewiston businesses.

The agreement that received the green light Tuesday is different than one struck earlier by the port and the city for the network. That one set terms for the port to install its own conduit in city right of way.

  • Discussed a Bonneville Power Administration transformer that will arrive at the port by rail at an unspecified date. It will be stored at the port and then hauled up the Lewiston Hill by Omega Morgan, a third-party transport company, for installation somewhere between the top of the incline and Genesee.

The port has been told the transformer weighs 375,000 pounds, but hasn’t been provided its exact dimensions, Doeringsfeld said. Much of the weight is likely because of copper wire, while its dimensions will be limited by the ability to transport it by rail, Doeringsfeld said.

Williams may be contacted at [email protected] or (208) 848-2261.