Spokane Journal of Business

Jack Buell Trucking buys mill, relocates it to Idaho

Texas wood chip machinery will double current capacity

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A new whole-log chip mill is expected to be in operation near St. Maries, Idaho, late this year. The mill is owned by Jack Buell Trucking, of St. Maries, and will operate at the company’s Swan Lake Fiber site in Milltown, a Benewah County, Idaho, community a mile or so northeast of St. Maries and about 60 miles southeast of Spokane.

“This is a major investment for our company, but Eleanor and I know it will be good for our community,” says Jack Buell.

Buell and his wife, Eleanor, own and operate Jack Buell Trucking with their three sons, Kevin, Mickey, and Frank. The company has some 250 employees and in addition to trucking, manages log yards and does other heavy hauling. There are a few miles to travel, however, before the first chips are produced.

The Buells bought the mill in Texas, where it was dismantled, and are hauling it to St. Maries using their own trucks. The first three truckloads arrived last week and some additional 12 trips—2,200 miles one way—are needed before the entire mill will be in St. Maries.

“It’s a pretty big job just getting the mill moved here. Then we’re facing a major construction project to get it operating,” Buell says. “We have a good crew and skilled people, so we’ll get it done.”

The mill operated for one year in Texas, but a lack of supply and raw material forced the original owners to sell. After considerable research, the Buells decided to make their investment.

The mill isn’t a completely new venture for the company, but it’s a massive upgrade to its current operations.

Swan Lake Fiber has chipped logs here for many years using diesel-powered portable chippers. While the operations produced thousands of chips, it was limited by the size of log it could chip. The new mill, driven by a 1,200-horsepower electric motor, is designed to handle oversized logs.

“This will be a big addition to our community and to our local industry,” Buell says.

Bob Danielson, owner of Danielson Logging, in St. Maries, says having the local mill will increase efficiencies and productivity for logging contractors.

“This opens up a local market for oversize pulp logs that previously had to be hauled to Clarkston,” he says. “It will double the capacity for trucking around here because it shortens hauls and increases efficiency.”

It also could be a boon to forest health, Danielson asserts.

“The mill’s proximity to Avery (Ranger District) is also a benefit. The Forest Service owns a lot of ground that needs to be managed, and this could prompt them to put up more pulp sales, which would really improve their forests,” Danielson says.

Once the mill is moved, Buell expects construction will take two to three months to complete. Chips produced at the mill will be hauled to the Clearwater Paper mill, in Lewiston, Idaho.

  • Dan Hammes

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