Marissa Luck, June 11, 2015, The Daily News
Weyerhaeuser Co. on Thursday announced that it now supports the Oregon Way/Industrial Way rail corridor improvement project, after having shied away from supporting it for years.
The company also announced some improvements to its Longview sawmill.
Company support could enhance lobbying efforts for what is commonly referred to as the SR 432 project, a $350 million effort to build new rail lines, highway overpasses and other measures to avoid projected congestion in the Longview industrial zone. Area officials are waging a key fight to get the Legislature to help fund the work.
“Early on there was some concerns with some initial design concepts,” said company spokesman Anthony Chavez.
The initial designs would have taken a significant chunk of Weyerhaeuser property along the tracks and blocked off its access to gates along Industrial Way, Chavez said following a company community briefing at the Cowlitz Expo Center.
Chavez said new designs and meetings with supporters and officials involved in the project have allayed those concerns, Chavez said.
“We now have assurances that our immediate concerns relating to the project will be addressed,” he said. A document signed by Port of Longview, City of Longview and Cowlitz County officials states that they will work “to maintain operating efficiencies for the Weyerhaeuser Longview Complex.”
Supporters of the project say it’s needed to attract business to the Port of Longview and the Barlow Point area.
Some environmental groups oppose the project though, saying it is directly tied to Millennium Bulk Terminal’s proposed coal terminal, which would require 16 mile-long train trips through that area daily.
Other than offering political support for the project, Weyerhaeuser will not be contributing financially, Chavez said.
Weyerhaeuser officials also announced that it will be upgrading equipment at their Longview sawmill, but officials declined to be specific.
“The capital investment will help improve the flow of logs into the mill and replace equipment that is at the end of its life cycle,” Chavez said. “Through continuous improvement and investment the sawmill will remain competitive, which ensures our long term viability as an employer in the community.”
Company leaders also said they continue to search for people to replace outgoing retirees, and are especially interested in people with maintenance and engineering skills.
The liquid packaging plant in Longview temporarily laid off 180 employees in January, stating the West Coast port slowdown stifled their ability to export products. Chavez said he couldn’t speculate as to whether there would be any additional downtown related to the slowdown.