WALLOWA - "Tinker toys for adults."
That's one way the president and CEO of Forest Concepts, Jim Dooley, describes his patented ELWd product that soon will be manufactured at a small mill in Wallowa.
The product known as ELWd (engineered large woody debris) is pronounced "el-wood" and covers a multitude of small diameter wood structures used for habitat enhancement, threatened and endangered species protection, erosion control, environmental restoration and landscape markets.
Fences also can be constructed out of the product.
Primarily roundwood structures, the heavier pieces, which can be 24 feet in length, can be loaded by a small loader on to a truck, driven close to the site, then carried by piece to the site for assembly.
Dooley, whose Forest Concepts was founded in 1998, said he rarely makes a presentation about his product line without coming away with new ideas for expansion.
The product, which will vary at the Wallowa site from 2 inches to 8 inches in diameter, is commonly built in kits then hauled to the site for construction. In-stream ELWd pieces are filled with rocks to anchor the structure in place.
The three pieces of a typical ELWd structure are poles, spar connectors and wedges, or plugs. Once placed in water the 100 percent wood pieces will swell and hold together until the product naturally decomposes, an estimated 20 to 30 years in the future. By that time, Dooley said, the natural riparian system should take over.
The new Wallowa mill will be under the guidance of Community Solutions, a for-profit branch of Wallowa Resources, and will operate as a post and pole operation as well as a producer of ELWd. It's expected to employ about four people.
Community Solutions' project manager David Hockett is excited about the new product's potential and about the small mill's location beside the county's railroad line. He hopes to develop a large sort yard on the property, which is leased from the city of Wallowa, and build pieces as they are ordered.
One major market for ELWd products could be the Forest Service. Dooley said that the Wenatchee National Forest already orders large ELWd pieces for erosion control after forest fires. The Nez Perce Tribe is interested in implementing the product along the Lostine River for fish enhancement.
Forest Concepts is a four-person business located in Federal Way, Wash. Since 1998 it has actively worked with partners to implement urban and rural ELWd projects all over the Northwest. The Wallowa mill will be the first of its kind to independently manufacture the product.
Dooley hopes in the future to establish seven such manufacturing bases in the nine western states.
At present, the Wallowa mill will only produce the ELWd poles with drilled holes in them, with the spars and wedges produced at a mill in Parma, Idaho. Hockett hopes in the future to expand the local operation to hire additional workers to make spars and wedges.
Dooley was at the Wallowa Mountain Visitor Center at Enterprise Wednesday to address 25 local resource leaders about his product.
ELWd has only been on the market for two years.
The Forest Concepts CEO addressed the change in stream control methods over the past century. Between 1930 and 1980, he said, science said to take woody debris out of streams to enhance fish passage. "Now, in the name of perfectly plausible science, we are doing just the opposite."
In his opening remarks Dooley said, "ELWd makes it easier to do salmon restoration. We create new uses for small diameter timber and create value-added things to establish jobs."