Androscoggin Valley highlighted at NHTOA annual meeting
By Edith Tucker
The Berlin Daily Sun
SHELBURNE — One hundred and forty people filled the tables in the Shelburne Birches dining room for the 106th annual meeting of the New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association at the Town and Country Inn and Resort on Saturday, May 13. The hearty buffet lunch took place after a morning that included three field trip stops: a walk through a 125-acre parcel on Austin Mill Brook managed for Bayroot, LLC by Wagner Forest Management; an overview of the Burgess BioPower plant from an on-site knoll on Berlin’s East Side; and an hour in the logyard and sawmill at the White Mountain Lumber Company on East Milan Road.
Wagner forester Scott Rineer of Errol led the walk on a woods road on a small parcel within a 7,200-acre-plus tract that’s been managed by Wagner Forest Management since 2003 when Bayroot bought it from Mead Paper. A fiber supply agreement for all pulp products used in the pulp-and-paper mill in Rumford, Maine, remains in effect until 2053.
Rineer pointed out that a two-stage shelterwood cut had been competed on the parcel. The first in the fall of 2004 was designed to establish regeneration, and the second in 2013 was an overstory removal. “Scattered larger trees were kept for age-class diversity,” he explained. Oak grows in this narrow valley located near the Androscoggin River, whereas primarily northern hardwoods grow on the hillsides.
Everything from these cuts was sold to markets within a 25-mile radius: white pine sawlogs to Hancock Lumber in Bethel, Maine; both hemlock and red pine sawlogs to White Mountain Lumber; spruce-fir sawlogs to Milan Lumber; pulpwood to the Shelburne chip plant to for use in the Catalyst paper mill in Rumford, Maine; and biomass to Whitefield Power in Whitefield.
“Without healthy, robust markets this intensive silviculture would not be possible,” Rineer said.
As is typical of Wagner Forest Managment’s clients, the management is third-party certified through both the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and Forest Stewardship Council programs. Participants must meet a number of standards, including best management practices for erosion control. Mike Everhart of E.J.Prescott of Concord discussed new materials now available, including woven degradable netting and cotton and jute “socks” that are laid down and staked in to control sediment and water flows along woods roads, on steep slopes and on alteration of terrain sites.
Cate Street Capital asset manager Dammon Frecker explained that the 75-megawatt wood-to-energy Burgess BioPower plant had started up in November 2013 with the typical number of glitches and had then hit its stride in the summer 2014. “It’s a four-shift plant with a total of 28 employees, normally with 10 or 11 working on site,” Frecker said. “Theoretically, it could run with no employees on site, but the three people who operate it on weekends are very busy.”
Some 50 percent to 60 percent of the clean wood — chips and bark — comes from New Hampshire, 30 percent from Maine, and 5 to 10 percent from Vermont, with some from Connecticut and Canada. Burgess sends 67 megawatts of its electricity out onto the grid with the balance used internally to run its own operation. With an annual biomass consumption of some 700,000 tons, Burgess is a key component of the region’s low-grade wood market.
The plant consumes 100 tons of clean wood an hour or 2,400 every 24 hours. Frecker explained that some 65,000 tons are stored on site before mud season begins. The plant’s highly visible A-frame structure can only hold enough to keep the plant running for less than a week, he pointed out.
Richard Carrier holds the procurement contract and aggregates the chips in an effort to achieve as much uniformity as possible.
The oft-cited inadequacy of the capacity of the Coos Loop (Eversouce’s transmission line) that can result in curtailments of the export of electricity from the county’s generating facilities — hydro plants, wind turbines and biomass — occurs for Burgess less than one percent of the time and then it only reduces it by a third. “It doesn’t have a real impact,” Frecker said. “Where we’ve taken a hit is on the pricing of Renewable Energy Certificates. The supply of RECs is outpacing demand.”
Speaking without notes, White Mountain Lumber co-owner Barry Kelley of Berlin outlined the fascinating history of sawmilling in the Androscoggin Valley. He used some enlarged photographs and artifacts to support his tale of the long-ago days of log drives, portable logging camps and the Brown Company.
Ross Caron of Gorham, an 18-year employee who describes himself as a log buyer-forester-scaler. He explained that the piles of logs in the yard are organized not only by species but also by diameter and length. This approach allows his boss, Kelley, who is White Mountain’s salesman, to secure specific orders.
Kelley sells product mostly by phone and word of mouth but also through brokers. (Woodbrowser, a private online trading platform in Concord, is a relatively new flat-fee option that reaches out across much of the East Coast and Eastern Provinces.)
“All wood is cut to order,” Caron said. He personally places a scale slip on every log. “I scale 6 to 8 tractor-trailer loads of logs a day. We move a million board feet a year on our own trucks.” Another five million are delivered to Berlin on trucks owned by others. He led the group into the sawmill to show off the sawheads used there.
This year he bought 60 to 70,000 board feet of hardwood from the nearly 40,000-acre Nash Stream State Forest, harvested by Marquis Logging of Stewartstown, some to be used for grade stakes and pallets. White Mountain has no kilns but sells green or air-dried lumber.
The company employs between 45 and 50 workers, including those on the retail side, managed by co-owner Mark Kelley of Randolph, Barry’s brother.
After lunch, NHTOA executive director Jason Stock and board president Peter Howland reported on some of the challenges facing the timber industry, such as mill closures in Maine and threats to the viability of independent biomass plants due to the weak wholesale electricity market and low reimbursement rates under the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard law.
Three 2017 annual Awards were presented: Kendall Norcott Award to John Caveney of Spofford; President’s Award to Rep. Gene Chandler of Bartlett; Outstanding Logger Award to Matt Magoon of Magoon Logging LLC of Loudon. Rep. Herb Richardson of Lancaster was commended for his energetic legislative efforts on behalf of the timber industry.
Two other Republican representatives were on hand: Rep. Robert Theberge of Berlin and Rep. Troy Merner of Lancaster. DRED commissioner Jeff Rose, Parks and Recreation Director Phil Bryce, Forest and Lands Director Brad Simpkins, Trails Bureau Chief Chris Gamache and county forester Brendan Prusick, plus White Mountain National Forest Supervisor Tom Wagner were on hand as well as Chuck Henderson, representing Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, and Ben Belanger, representing Sen. Maggie Hassan.