On Monday evening, March 23, the Governor of Washington State issued an executive order requiring everyone in Washington to “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” as part of the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, with exceptions for “essential activity”. The Company’s management promptly began to plan how to execute an orderly suspension of manufacturing activities. Further clarification indicated that commercial pulp production could be deemed essential activity and a suspension was not implemented immediately. Subsequently, the company was notified that various equipment vendors may not be able to support the operations of its straw pulp facility due to its remote location, travel disruptions and the health status of their workers. Moreover, concern mounted among our workforce, their families and our communities regarding the continuation of operations in this environment.
Therefore, as of March 28, 2020 the Board of Managers of Columbia Pulp I, LLC has made the decision to temporarily suspend regular operations at its Lyons Ferry facility. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Company has experienced supply chain disruptions as well as personnel shortages. In the interest of safeguarding our employees and the facility we operate; it is prudent to follow the Governor’s guidelines to stay at home.
The Company will commenced an orderly shutdown of its wheat-straw pulp mill Sunday morning March 29, 2020 and was completed the curtailment of operations on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. The Company will suspend its current 24/7 production schedule and will prepare the facility for a prolonged shutdown and essential maintenance posture. The company will continue to employ personnel to safeguard the plant in the meantime and to ensure the safety of the community at large.
Most employees were laid off and a small cadre of employees remain. The Company will monitor the pandemic that is impacting not only Washington State but the global pulp and paper market in which the company operates. The Company will also explore various governmental programs to assist its employees and anticipate the restart of the plant once the threat has passed and broad commerce has commenced.
“After careful deliberation and my formal recommendation, the Board of Managers has elected to enact an orderly and temporary suspension of operations at the Lyons Ferry Facility. These are extraordinary times and the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic are unprecedented. The employees of Columbia Pulp have given tremendous effort and brought incredible leadership to bringing the Lyons Ferry facility into production. Despite the incredible efforts of our employees and dedicated vendors, the Board has determined that following the State of Washington’s Stay at Home, Stay Safe guidance is the best course of action at this time.” John Begley, CEO
The safety of employees and families remains the Company’s highest priority. In addition, the Company will focus primarily on maintaining the Lyons Ferry facility for an efficient re-start of operations in the future.