Photo by Willy Ward
The last log to come off the Korbel Mill when it closed in 2015. The mill had been in operation on and off since 1884.
The Korbel Mill, closed in February of 2015 after a century of operation, and purchased from the Green Diamond Resource Co. by the Trinity River Timber Co. in May of 2016, will fire up again Dec. 18.
"It's been a journey, that's for sure," said Ken Dunn, general manager of Schmidbauer Lumber, which is the Eureka branch of the Trinity River company. Dunn has been working on the project since the mill's initial closure. "I've been working on it form concept to design to construction to implementation. There's challenges around every corner."
The mill will primarily produce Douglas fir commodities for the housing market and new construction, to be shipped across the state. Dunn acknowledges that a recent hike in gas tax, which increases the sales tax on diesel from 1.75 to 5.75 percent, may have an overall effect on the bottom line as relates to shipping costs, but its full impact has yet to be seen.
"It’s early to say but yeah it will eventually ... impact freight costs," Dunn told the Journal
, adding that the big trucks can be hard on roads. "You got to pay to play sometimes."
Trinity River President Frank Schmidbauer said in the 2016 press release announcing the sale, "The Korbel mill is a great addition. It is located in close proximity to timber supplies and good transportation both east and south." The sale came with an existing agreement from Green Diamond to supply logs from its timberlands.
It doesn't appear as though the reopening will add any new jobs, as Schmidbauer will be transferring 45 of its current employees from its Eureka site to Korbel. Those employees were working the second shift (4 p.m. to midnight) at the Eureka location, which the company had decided to curtail.
"Instead of laying them off we allowed them a one-time transfer to keep their benefits and their seniority," Dunn said.
More shifts and employees could be added later on, he said. He estimates the mill will process 100 million board feet per year.