Wood pellet factory may bring jobs, more shipping to harbor

Benjamin Fordham
Mad River Union

SAMOA – The future is starting to take shape for the former Samoa pulp mill site. With the EPA cleanup nearly done, compatible tenants are starting to emerge. The latest is Samoa Wood Pellets LLC, which was awarded an exclusive right to negotiate from the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District during the commission’s May 28 meeting.

The agreement means that the two parties have 90 days to agree on terms of a lease, although Harbor District Commissioner Greg Dale indicated that he did not anticipate any hang-ups. “The project feels right and I believe it has legs,” Dale said. “I imagine there will be some minor changes to the lease but I’m optimistic that it will move quickly.”

The Henderson, Nevada-based company plans to utilize the former mill’s 31,000 square-foot machine room, as well as dock space. Commissioner Richard Marks, who worked in the machine room for 10 years, said that the company plans on investing $35 million into the project. He also said that it could bring in nine cargo ships per year, “which is huge,” as well as creating 30 permanent positions.

The company will be a zero-emissions operation, and will use natural gas to dry the wood pellets. “It’s an almost perfect fit,” Marks said.

The commission also approved a lease to Coast Seafoods for space at the site during the meeting. Coast plans on raising baby oysters, or spats, at the site, and will be similar to the operation that Taylor Mariculture already has there. Between the three new ventures, “We’ll be able to approach 100 new jobs,” Marks said.

Also at the meeting, the commission approved rates for fishermen to use the district’s hoist to offload fish at Woodley Island.

“The fishermen seemed to be overwhelmingly supportive,” Marks said. “It just makes sense. There’s mutual benefit.” The rates are 25 cents-per-pound for bottom fish, albacore, and shellfish, 50 cents for crab, and 75 cents for salmon.

The commission also appointed Commissioner Marks and Commissioner Aaron Newman to a two-on-two working group with Eureka City Councilmembers.

“Hopefully we can have a fairly positive discussion so we can keep up a spirit of cooperation,” Newman said.

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