Public hearing set for May 9 on Columbia Pulp's conditional use permit application for proposed 140,000 tons/year straw pulp mill that would be built near Starbuck, Washington; so far no negative comments have been received, says county planner

DAYTON, Washington , May 8, 2014 () – Columbia County will hold a public hearing Friday to hear comments on a proposed straw pulp plant outside of Starbuck.

The hearing will take place at 1:15 p.m. at the Columbia County Fairgrounds Youth Building.

Dayton-based Columbia Pulp applied for a conditional use permit on Feb. 28 to build and operate an industrial plant producing 140,000 tons of straw pulp and other products per year. The facility would be built near the Snake River along State Route 261 west of Starbuck.

A hearings examiner from Wenatchee will listen to public testimony about the project before ultimately deciding whether to approve the permit. Columbia County switched to using an outside hearings examiner for major projects like this in 2009, as opposed to a local Board of Adjustment.

County Planner Kim Lyonnais said an impartial person from out of town is better able to weigh evidence that's relevant to the project and not be swayed by testimony coming from personal grudges or other irrelevant information.

"This is the best method for deciding major impact projects in rural areas," he said.

To date, Lyonnais said he's received no negative comments about the proposed plant, and expects public testimony to be positive. If its application is approved, Columbia Pulp plans to begin site preparations this fall and construction in early 2015, with the goal of making the plant ready for processing after the summer 2015 wheat harvest.

Rachel Alexander can be reached at rachelalexander@wwub.com or 509-526-8363.

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