Pulp mill jobs in jeopardy because of low snowpack

A Port Townsend mill, dependent on local water, is in danger of shutting down.

PORT TOWNSEND, Wash. — A quick tour of the Port Townsend Pulp Mill showed it takes a lot of water to make paper.

"We use during our water conservation periods, about 10,000,000 gallons a day," said Kevin Scott, the mill's director of sustainability. "And that is a lot of water. But we also recycle that water about eight times. So if we didn't recycle we would use about 80,000,000 gallons a day."

Scott says that water has been in short supply.

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"This year was lower than normal with the low snowpacks," said Scott.

The mill's water comes from Lord's Lake, some 25 miles to the south in Quilcene.

The reservoir holds 570 million gallons of water. Right now it has less than a third of that.

"I've never seen it this low," said Tim Cuddohy, who has been coming by Lord's Lake for nearly 40 years.

So what he sees now surprised him.

"You can see the inlet from the Little Quill River that dumps in here," he said. "And I've never seen [like] that before. It's usually under water."

The reservoir is so low, as one of its final contingencies, the pulp mill ordered floatable pumps to help get the water out. As a last resort, the mill could shut down.

But they have been doing a lot of work to avoid that.

"We started pulling from the reservoir in July," said Scott. "It's now the sixth of November. So we've got through the driest part of the year and we're into our normal rainfall."

A normal rainfall that, he says, should begin filling up the reservoir.

The water pumps are to arrive next week.

If the rain comes as promised, the mill plans to keep the pumps for a couple of weeks, then send them back.

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