Good Earth mill set for March opening

Good Earth planning grading and drainage work at Garland Prairie site when weather improves

WILLIAMS, Ariz. - With site cleanup underway, Williams' second sawmill is expected to be operational by the end of this month.

In February, Good Earth Power AZ received permission to begin site cleanup on a 37-acre parcel off of Garland Prairie Road, where a new lumber mill and processing facility will be built to support forest restoration from the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI).

The city of Williams has issued a grading permit, and drainage and grading work will begin once the weather improves, according to a Good Earth newsletter. The company has also submitted building and electrical permits for the mill and the bagging line. A truck scale for the mill is currently in Phoenix, awaiting an installation permit from the city of Williams and the availability of heavy haul transportation.

Once the site prep is finished, the company will build its infrastructure, transfer equipment to the site, install it and test it. Good Earth anticipates that processing equipment will be operational by the end of March 2015.

Although Williams is currently under a building permit freeze because of the water crisis, Good Earth spokesperson Lori Martinek said the company has a plan in place that is allowing them to proceed.

"The mill and the bagging operation will require very little water, and a plan has been outlined to fulfill 90 percent of the facility's peak production water demand in a sustainable manner," she said in an email. "Until permits are approved, we can't share any additional information on the process."

Good Earth is preparing to begin milling 50,000 board feet a day at its Williams location and then increase until 300,000 board feet are produced daily, according to previous press releases.

The mill is expected to process the smaller diameter trees that will be thinned on west side task orders over the remaining eight-year life of the Phase 1 4FRI contract.

The Williams site will be the initial processing center for Good Earth's Soils Division. Slash will be composted into soil on site and the facility will feature two bagging lines for composted and chipped products. A manual line will be used to bag soils and bark. A second, automated bagging line will have the ability to add color to chips for decorative landscaping uses.

Plans also call for the addition of drying kilns, a pole peeler and other equipment to expand the mill operation over time.

Officials estimate the Williams mill will create about 100 local jobs. Good Earth plans to hold its first job fair in Williams once permits for the new mill have been secured and an operational timeline has been formalized.

In January, Good Earth announced that it had partnered with Flagstaff-based Roots Composting, LLC to produce a line of enriched soil products from the 60,000 tons of biomass that it expects to produce annually as forest restoration activities on the west side ramp up. Representatives from Good Earth Soils, Ltd. have been meeting with potential customers throughout the west and southwest.

Good Earth is already planning continued growth on the west side. Officials are sourcing additional sawmill equipment and evaluating future expansion sites in the region. New capacity would not go online until 2016.

Meanwhile, Good Earth officials say log sales and pole shipments are increasing from its Lumberjack Mill in Heber, and officials are discussing plans for a third shift. Workers are readying the mill's new upgraded planer for operation and preparing a second pole peeler to go online.

Task order update

To date, 13 task orders have received notices to proceed from the Forest Service.

The four active task orders include:

• Dogtown (1,716 acres on the Kaibab National Forest) with 85 acres restored to date,

• KA (1,046 acres on the Kaibab) with 55 acres restored to date,

• Pomeroy (1,646 acres on the Kaibab) with 85 acres restored to date, and

• Woodchuck (585 acres on the Tonto National Forest) with 92 acres restored to date.

The eight inactive task orders include:

• Alder (1,322 acres on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest) with 995 acres restored to date and operations ceased for winter,

• Bobs (2,017 on the Coconino National Forest), Clark (1,684 acres on the Coconino), Elk Park (2,901 acres on the Coconino) and Weatherford (1,017 acres on the Coconino), which have Forest Service road work ongoing,

• East Clear Creek (4,295 acres on the Coconino), which is awaiting suitable operating conditions,

• West Fork (1,482 acres on the Apache-Sitgreaves) with 1,040 acres restored to date and operations suspended because of weather,

• Mercer (952 acres on the Tonto) with 90 acres completed and a resumption order issued on Feb. 19.

The Ranch task order was completed in 2014. To date, 3,591 acres have been restored, with nearly 2,700 of those acres restored since January 2014. The rate of restoration will continue to increase in 2015, as processing capacity expands significantly.

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