At one of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) hearings regarding the proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant held in Warrenton, a local bank manager posed the question, “If not LNG, then what?”
One answer could be another acronym, CLT. Cross Laminated Timber, also called mass timber, is hailed as the greatest advancement in construction technology since reinforced concrete. Touted as “plywood on steroids,” it is, simply put, 2-foot by 6-foot boards glued (laminated) together in cross grained layers to form panels. These panels are computer design generated as prefabricated units, similar to concrete “tilt-ups,” creating beautiful mid-sized buildings with finished wood inside and out.
The wood becomes a carbon sink, and eliminates the use of concrete, which is estimated to produce 5 percent of greenhouse gases worldwide. The process has been long used in Europe, Australia and Canada, and an example can be seen in Portland at the Oregon Zoo Elephant Lands habitat.
Astoria would likely be an ideal location for a CLT plant, having a skilled work force, local timber and shipping capabilities. A factory to produce CLT would not come cheap, but it wouldn’t require pipelines, river activity disruptions, military escorts, or hazardous cargo.
I believe the great majority of local residents would welcome a clean industry that would provide good wage jobs and utilize local resources instead of extracting them and shipping the raw materials overseas. Picture a ship leaving Astoria with a school, an apartment building and houses bound for Los Angeles or China. It would be a healthy addition to tourism, brew pubs and pot shops.
This is a rapidly expanding industry, and Astoria would do well to get in now, in advance of competing interests. Information is all over the Internet — just enter “CLT wood” — and the Mass Timber Conference was held recently in Portland.