CAVE JUNCTION — Rough & Ready Lumber is going through its second shutdown in three years, the company has announced, citing a log shortage.
Co-owner Jennifer Phillippi told the sawmill crew Friday, and tearfully described over the phone the situation at the longstanding mill.
For now, 20 sawmill workers are out of work, and another 40 on the planer and kiln dryers could be gradually phased out over the next six to seven weeks, Phillippi said.
About 70 full-timers had been working at the mill four miles south of Cave Junction. The mill is believed to be the second-largest employer in Cave Junction after Taylor's Sausage.
Whether the mill can reopen at full strength any time soon is completely uncertain, she added.
“What’s tragic is the mill hit record production this week,” Phillippi said. “This crew has really jelled.
“When there’s light at the end of the tunnel, operating in a bad lumber market makes sense. But there’s no sense to operate a few more weeks if we don’t see logs coming in.”
A log deck that had 8 million board feet of logs in May of 2014 has a small fraction of that now. And even at that level in 2014, too much was detereorating fire salvage, Phillippi said.
The mill shut down for a year in 2013-14, but was reopened with $5 million in upgrades with renewed hopes for a stable federal timber supply. Phillippi and other mill owners blame federal agencies for lagging timber supply.
“We felt like things had turned around and it was worth the gamble,” Phillippi said. “You can’t run a mill hoping there’s a fire and you’re going to get salvage.”
Steve Swanson, president of Swanson Group that runs a sawmill and plywood mill in?Glendale, said he’s also facing a short timber supply. Over 400 people work at the two mills in Glendale.
Dave Schott, executive director for the Southern Oregon Timber Industries Association, said the market is soft for lumber products.
“There’s a lot of negativity, everything is sort of at a muted level,” he said. “Hopefully it will pick up in the spring.”