Warm Springs Forest Products Industries moves forward

The Warm Springs Forest Products Industries management and board have come up with a plan that should keep the mill operating for at least the next couple of years.

Part of the plan involved a downsizing. The mill had to cut about 20 jobs, and now employs 86 people. Seventy-seven percent of the employees are tribal members or married in to the tribe.

All of the mill workers have taken pay cuts. With these and other savings, the cost of operation has been reduced by about 18 percent, said John Katchia Jr., mill manager.

WSFPI management and board members worked with the tribal Branch of Natural Resources, the BIA, and the tribal Finance Department in coming up with the plan.

The most important part of the plan is the re-payment provision from WSFPI to the tribes.

During hard financial times, the enterprise had gotten behind on stumpage and other payments to the tribes.

The new plan, presented to Tribal Council this week, includes a repayment schedule that will bring the back payments up to date in about three years.

The plan also provides for the prompt payment of new stumpage fees that come due.

All of the parties involved—both on the tribal and BIA side—agreed the plan looks like a good one. And a lot of work went in to the process, with full cooperation by everyone involved.

“I think these are the best answers we’ve ever had as to the mill operation,” said John Halliday, BIA superintendent for the Warm Springs Agency.

The repayment aspect of the plan is critical because the BIA could not approve new timber sales without an assurance that the tribes would be compensated for the timber.