By Justin Pittman, July 23, 2014, The Daily News
A $50 million expansion of a Port of Kalama grain terminal is running behind schedule, but owners say the project should be completed in time to load crops from the fall harvest.
Temco’s terminal at the south end of the port property went offline about six months ago to accommodate the expansion, which aims to modernize a 1960s-era facility and double its capacity, the company’s General Manager Paul Butters said, adding that the expansion will add about 60 jobs to the local economy.
“Earlier is always better,” Butters said of the project’s completion. “But we’re optimistic that we’ll be able to handle a portion of the (2014) wheat harvest, and be able to handle the soybean harvest this fall.”
Wheat harvests are just beginning and usually peak in August or September, Butters explained. Soybean harvests last into late September or October. The terminal should also be able to load corn harvests, which begin in October and continue into November.
The expansion was scheduled for completion during the summer of 2014. Butters said some changes had been made to the complex project, but didn’t identify any specific issue as causing the delays.
“Some of that’s just kind of expected with the work that’s going on out there,” Butters said.
The renovation will add new docks, a new shipping system, new rail and barge unloading machinery and new systems for cleaning wheat and other grains, Butters said. Butters said the improved terminal could handle up to 200 million bushels of grain per year, as much as Temco’s Tacoma terminal.
“It brings the usefulness and utility that is required for us to be competitive with some of the newer elevators that are up and down the Columbia River,” Butters said.
Temco is the latest Columbia River terminal to expand following the 2010 deepening of the river’s main channel by three feet to allow ships to carry heavier loads of bulk cargo. In 2010, EGT built the first new grain terminal in the United States in 25 years. In 2010, Kalama Export — located on the port’s northern end — spent $36 million to install a new wheat-cleaning system, eight additional grain silos and a loading belt.
Temco is the smaller of the two Kalama grain terminals, accounting for one-quarter — roughly 2.75 million tons — of the Port of Kalama’s 11 million tons of grain exports in 2013, according to the port.
“Competition always goes into your decision-making when investing capital,” Butters said.
According to Butters, Temco also weighed other considerations when deciding to expand. He said a primary goal is to help meet customer demand for cleaner wheat products. Once completed, the Kalama terminal will be the only Temco terminal able to both wash grains and load trains of more than 100 cars.
Temco is a joint venture between CHS Inc. and Cargill Inc. It also operates grain terminals in Portland and Tacoma.
Before the upgrades, Butters said Temco’s Kalama terminal employed a maximum of 50 to 60 workers depending on the season. When it reopens, Butters expects the operation will provide steady jobs for 120 workers. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union will represent most of those employees under a contract negotiated about a year ago, said former ILWU Local 21 President Jake Whiteside.
“I just believe that we were happy with the Temco agreement,” said Whiteside, who was president at the time of the negotiations. Whitside said he would like to see all of the union’s employees covered by contracts like the Temco agreement.
“It still gives us a chance to have a say there,” Whiteside said. “There’s a lot of ability to have collective bargaining on our side.”
Initially, area union leaders had worried that Temco may not hire local construction workers, electricians and plumbers for the expansion. But Longview’s JH Kelly, a subcontractor on the expansion, provided about 85 to 90 percent of the project’s labor, most of which came from the local workforce, said Mike Bridges, business representative for Longview-based International Brotherhood of Electricians and Welders Local 48.
“Through the building trades we did really well on that project,” said Bridges. “I couldn’t be much happier.”