Watco’s journey with Columbia Pulp began when The Great Northwest Railroad’s Commercial Director, Ted Kadau, was contacted a few years ago about rail rates, track design, logistics and help with access to the Union Pacific’s mainline track which runs adjacent to the mill site.  Ted realized that Columbia Pulp’s project was going to be very involved and that the Customer needed and deserved dedicated, full-time attention to get them up and running efficiently. 

A vision and ambition to make a disruptive difference in a marketplace and a chunk of land in the middle of one of the densest wheat growing regions on earth – that’s what Columbia Pulp started with when they set out to build and operate North America’s first market-grade straw pulp plant. The only piece they needed help with – mapping out a logistics plan. 

Enter Watco Supply Chain Services (WSCS) and WSCS Manager Sabin Reynolds, a former Class 1 railroader with a diverse background in logistics and supply chain management. Sabin was brought onboard to form a logistics strategy for Columbia Pulp, including finalizing rail spur construction and executing a plan to get the company’s pulp and bio-polymer from mill to market.

“The addition of Sabin Reynolds to our team and the expertise he has brought in the field of logistics has been invaluable. We didn’t know what we didn’t know,” said John Begley, CEO of Columbia Pulp. “He has become an integral part of our ramp-up team.”

Columbia Pulp’s facility is large and it’s located in a remote area, just a few miles west of the small eastern Washington community of Starbuck, Washington. The scope of the project and the challenges of being located in such a remote setting meant drawing on all the various areas of expertise and resources made available by WSCS and the Watco family of business units. Sabin has been able to call on Watco Terminal and Port Services to provide valuable Rail Safety and Hazmat training and certification, WSCS operating units for multi-modal rates and capacity, the Watco railcar management team for tank car leases to facilitate sending the bio-polymer to market, and, of course the GRNW short line to provide direct rail service to the mill.

“What makes this such an amazing and rewarding experience,” according to Sabin, “is that the whole team at WSCS and Watco are willing to do whatever it takes to meet the Customer’s needs.  The mill is a true ‘start-up’, using brand new technology and making a huge difference in a critical market space and WSCS is strong enough, yet nimble enough, to answer the call.”

Columbia Pulp plans to begin producing pulp and bio-polymer as early as July and is a true pioneer in sustainability and environmental stewardship. The economic impact to the region is tremendous, and we are very proud to be a part of their current and future successes!   

To learn more about the Columbia Pulp mill, go to:  www.columbiapulp.com.