Oroville accepts $339K EDA Public Works grant for road improvements

“This grant will help ensure Oroville continues to grow for years to come. The investments will create jobs and economic opportunities in this important rural region of our state.”

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (WA-D)

Next step is to scope project, hire engineers

OROVILLE – The Oroville City Council voted to approve acceptance of an $839,784 Public Works Grant from the federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) to improve road infrastructure near the Cascade & Columbia Railroads’s railhead.

The council voted approval at their Tuesday, Oct. 4 council meeting. The grant will go towards funding critical road infrastructure that would enable businesses in the region to grow while attracting new industrial developments. The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates the investment will create 20 new jobs and save 136 more.

In a recent press release, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), who helped to secure the funding by personally writing the EDA, said, “This grant will help ensure Oroville continues to grow for years to come. The investments will create jobs and economic opportunities in this important rural region of our state.”

The grant money will be used to make changes to parts of Jennings Loop and Bob Neil roads, as well as Ninth Ave. A portion of those roads will be vacated and a new route for residents near Reman and Reload will be created, adding about two-and a half minutes of travel time for non-industrial users, according to Chris Branch, Oroville’s director of Community Development.

“Our next step will be to scope the project out and hire the engineers,” said Branch, who credits the city council as economically forward thinking in regards to businesses and the jobs they bring.

According to the Cantwell release, Oroville serves as the main hub for regional trade in northern Okanogan County. The EDA grant will support road improvements that will allow the expansion of Oroville Reman and Reload Lumber Mill, a manufacturer of wood products that ships over 48,000 board feet of lumber a year and one of the city’s major employers.

The company, which is owned by Westbank, BC-based Gorman Brothers, makes extensive use of the railhead, as well as the Heavy Haul Corridor between the Canadian border and Oroville. They ship lumber via truck to Oroville which is further sawed to custom dimensions for sale throughout the U.S, as well as for export overseas. The lumber, and other products, are then loaded onto railcars where they are freighted to Wenatchee and can be joined to the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railway for further shipment across the country and to seaports. For their part, Reman and Reload will pay the city’s 20 percent match of the Public Works Grant, or about $168,000. In addition they already paid for a resource assessment by an archaeologist, according to Branch.

“Normally the match would have been 25 percent, but due to the fires the area sustained in the last two years we are considered an economically stressed area and it was lowered to 20 percent,” said Branch.

Such investment in retaining existing businesses and attracting new ones is especially important to Oroville and the surrounding region, which has seen the recent departure of employers hamper its local economy, according to Cantwell.

The North Central Washington Economic Development District (NCWEDD), a non-profit funded by the EDA serving Chelan, Douglas and Okanogan counties and the Colville Confederated Tribes, was instrumental in helping Oroville in applying for the grant.

By improving the infrastructure of the area near the railhead, the city hopes to ensure the further success of Reman and Reload, as well as attract more businesses to take advantage of the railhead and bring more jobs to the area. They also hope that it will help ensure the success of the Cascade and Columbia River Railway, which serves businesses in the Tonasket and Omak areas, as well as on down the line to Wenatchee.