Eco Fiber Mill proposing two mills in Oroville
“It involves building a new road for heavy freight capacity and sidewalks.” Chris Branch, Director of Oroville Community Development
OROVILLE – The Economic Development Administration has given verbal pre-approval to an approximately $1.3 million grant to move part of Jennings Loop and Bob Neal Road to aid heavy freight traffic in and around Oroville Reman and Reload.
Now the city and the North Central Washington Economic Development District can begin work on the actual grant application, Chris Branch, director of Community Development, told the Oroville City Council at their March 15 meeting. He and Michael Guss, from the NCWEDD were on hand to update the council on progress being made on the grant and showed the council an updated map on the road’s location and the different phases involved in moving it and improving it.
“What we are looking at is an alternate route at the junction of Jennings and Bob Neal Road,” said Branch in a call from the Gazette-Tribune. “It involves building a new road for heavy freight capacity and sidewalks.”
Reman and Reload has purchased several properties over the years, expanding their operations on both sides of Jennings Loop Road. Currently the road goes directly between Reman and Reload operations causing the company concerns about additional traffic not related to the company. The road in question is both within the city limits and in the county.
Branch reminded the council that Oroville Reman and Reload would be providing a match of $250,000 for the project. He also discussed the importance of keeping the railroad line open to Oroville adding that this helps ensure the need for the Cascade and Columbia Railroad, which serves the area from Oroville to Wenatchee.
Steps to develop the new road include annexation of the area, the vacation parts of the road to be relocated and a current Conditional Use Permit for Oroville Reman and Reload would need to be re-opened, allowing for additional conditions.
While Reman and Reload is one of the biggest users of the road, it is also used by residents who live on Jennings Loop, as well as Gold Digger Apples Inc., which has operations east of Reman and Reload. Brad Scott was at the meeting representing Gold Digger. He questioned the proposed vacation and asked how to proceed with ensuring Gold Digger would be able to continue using the road if it were vacated.
Branch and Guss were heading to Washington, DC this week to discuss the grant and other issues related to the EDD.
“As we speak the EDA (U.S. Economic Development Administration) is interested in the project and the whole railroad I think,” said Branch.
If the federal grant is approved NCWEDD will administrate it, according to Guss, however, the money would be passed through the City of Oroville. He said Oroville would receive a fee for their participation in the process.
A new fiber mill has been proposed on property at Oroville’s Skyview Industrial Park, with Eco Fiber Mill agreeing to develop a building at the industrial park. Eco Fiber Mill founder Vicki Eberhart explained to the city council that the company would first repurpose the vacant Thorndike Warehouse to locate a dehairing machine, then build the new mill facility at the industrial park. However, since the council meeting, investors in the project felt that rehabilitating the Thorndike warehouse building would be too costly and are looking for another location for the de-hairing machine, according to Branch.
“There are only like four of these machines in the world and Eco Fiber Mill has located one in Kentucky and wants to bring it to Oroville,” said Branch. “Our building at the industrial park would be ideal, but it is under lease until 2017 so they are looking at another location.”