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Columbia Pulp ordered to pay $758K debt or property will be sold at courthouse

DAYTON, Washington (From news reports) -- Columbia Pulp LLC has until April 15 to pay off a debt of $758,490.97 plus fees or its property near Starbuck will be sold to satisfy the judgment, according to Columbia County Superior Court papers posted on social media by that county's Sheriff's Office on Thursday, March 10.

This comes on the heels of the company announcing a shut down of its Starbuck mill in mid-February for an "undetermined length of time" to develop the market for its unique product -- a straw fiber alternative to wood.

The debt is due to Pasco-based construction company DKB Inc., according to the court paperwork.

Local media was unable to reach a spokesperson or attorney for Columbia Pulp on Thursday afternoon, and this story is developing.

Columbia Pulp, billed as the first tree-free pulp mill in North America recycling local agricultural waste into an alternative fiber for paper- and packaging-product manufacturers, constructed a 140,000-square-foot pulping mill on this property about 35 miles north of Dayton under judgment at 1351 Highway 261 less than three years ago.

The company finally opened its doors in September 2019 to 80 or so employees after a decade-long quest for financing.

The project was granted its building permit from Columbia County in June 2016, and $134 million in tax-exempt municipal solid-waste bonds from the Washington Economic Development Finance Authority was authorized in 2015.

Columbia Pulp also received $20 million in New Markets Tax Credit financing, which provides incentives for community development and economic growth through the use of tax credits that attract private investment to distressed communities.

But the mill was operating less than six months before having to close due to pandemic restrictions. The plant reopened in June 2021.

Then, just last month, Columbia Pulp announced they were shutting down "a majority of operations" for an "undetermined length of time" beginning Feb. 18. Nearly all the staff employed by the company was let go, with a small staff continuing to handle daily business operations.

The company's interim CEO Terry Ryan said that "the company continues to maintain a staff at its Lyons Ferry site, and we expect to maintain our Dayton office."

It was reported that Ryan said Columbia Pulp also had no plans to exit the Port of Garfield facility in Pomeroy, where the company runs a small pilot plant.

The CEO said in February that the decision to idle Columbia Pulp on Feb. 18 came amid "technological challenges in the face of a slower customer adoption time frame."

"We really want to and we will be continuing this work," he said in that interview. "That's what we're explaining to our customers. There's not a production-level of staff here, but there will be on-going staff while we continue to do this development."

If Columbia Pulp does not satisfy its debt to DKB Inc., the Sheriff's Office has been ordered to sell the property at noon April 15 on the front steps of the Columbia County Courthouse, 341 E. Main St., Dayton.

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