The Columbia Mill, on a Union Pacific line northeast of Walla Walla in Columbia County, is expected to receive chemicals either from UP or Watco Companies' Great Northwest Railroad. The mill is located in the heart of the state’s wheat-growing region, and farmsa there produce 4 million tons of waste wheat straw each year.
The last large pulp mill in Washington opened in 1989.
Using technology developed by Sustainable Fiber Technologies of Renton, Wa., the mill, located on the Snake River, will extract cellulose from straw left over from wheat and alfalfa harvests. While not a new concept, mills historically have processed wood chips and pulpwood to produce pulp for manufacturing paper.
The company is touting the sustainability of the project, which it claims uses less energy and chemicals of traditional pulp and paper mills. Waste straw typically is plowed into the ground or burned by farmers.
Local media reported the project was first proposed 11 years ago. After site location and design work, and false starts with financing, Goldman Sachs in late July completed the sale of $133.6 million in tax-exempt 15-year bonds issued by the Washington Economic Development Finance Authority. It raised another $54 million in private equity.