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W.S. mill layoffs seasonal

Replacing technology at mill

   The approaching layoff of 93 mill workers at Warm Springs Forest Products Industries has been a hot topic throughout the state.
   However, these layoffs happen yearly at the mill and this time there is a benefit to the tribes.
   "There's a grant in place from the USDA," WSFPI Board of Directors member Jonathan Smith said. "We have $4.5 million to bring the boiler up to date and replace some of the transformers that have been at the mill. So we're talking about replacing 1938 technology with modern technology."
   The USDA grant was awarded to Warm Springs Power Enterprise. It was then passed on to the mill for the necessary upgrades.
   Maybe the reason the news of the layoffs was sensationalized this year, says Smith, is that the year's allowable annual crop was reduced. Based on the wishes of tribal members and tribal council, the allowable crop was reduced down to a sustainable level where the forest would be allowed to grow.
   "But during that down time, there's going to be a lot of work going on at a the mill. The boiler will be reconfigured, so we'll be able to use that as a biomass generator. Whereas before, it was putting out 50 percent energy, when we're finished with the upgrade that figure will be up to 100 percent."
   Some mill employees will stay on during the down-time to help with the necessary upgrades and refurbishments. All 93 employees are expected to return to WSFPI when the mill reopens in February 2013.
   Duran Bobb