MACLEOD PAPPIDAS | THE DAILY WORLD A tug-powered barge carrying four new 50,000-gallon tanks makes its way down the Chehalis River from the Satsop Development Park’s barge slip south of Montesano Tuesday. Four more tanks will float the waterway today, the first part of a journey that will end in Chevak, Alaska. The ability to ship oversized products was one of the reasons tank manufacturer BMT Northwest decided to move to the development park last year.
SATSOP — On Tuesday morning, about 20 spectators held their breath waiting to see if a barge with four 50,000-gallon shiny, white empty tanks would slip under a Chehalis River bridge near Montesano.
Thankfully for Brown-Minneapolis Tank Northwest, the company that fabricated the tanks, the tide was low enough that the tanks slid under the bridge unscathed.
Tuesday was a historic day for the Satsop Development Park and BMT Northwest as this was the first time in 15 years that a barge slip that is part of the development park infrastructure had been used, said Kellie Daniels, who does marketing work for the authority.
When the site on Fuller Hill was to be a nuclear power plant owned by the Washington Public Power Supply System, the barge slip was used in 1981 to take components of the power plant up the Chehalis from the Port of Grays Harbor.
Joel Rett, the projects manager for the authority, said in 1981 the barge brought in four steam generators, two reactor vessels and two pressurizers. Satsop Park Haul Road was built from Minkler Road to the power plant site to move up to 900 tons of cargo to the site from the barge slip.
Those components went back down the river in 1995 after the plant was deconstructed.
BMT Northwest chose to call the Satsop site its new home in April 2009 to manufacture large-scale steel tanks. It set up shop in the former twin-turbine building and signed on because the authority could offer the barge slip to take the tanks down the Chehalis River to the Port of Grays Harbor and to clients by water. The tanks are too wide to travel on regular roads and some are too high to make it safely under overpasses.
“(The barge slip) was absolutely critical to their move to the Satsop Development Park,” Daniels said.
The slip, 60 feet wide and 300 feet long, was renovated to remove sediments and make it deeper in July 2009. The renovation cost $450,000. The authority funded the project with $150,000 and the county’s Distressed Area Capital Fund provided the rest.
Rollie Irwin, the vice president of manufacturing at BMT Northwest, stood like a proud parent watching the barge carry away the first set of tanks Tuesday at about noon.
“It’s a great day,” Irwin said. “I wasn’t (worried it would hit the bridge,) everybody else was.”
Irwin’s company manufactured eight tanks, each with a 22-foot outside diameter and 20 feet high for Alaska Village Electric Cooperative, a bulk diesel storage plant, in Chevak, Alaska.
The tanks headed down the river on the barge, taking about two to three hours, to the port where they would be loaded onto an ocean-going barge and shipped to Alaska. The first four went Tuesday and the next four will head down the Chehalis at about noon today.
Irwin said the contract for the tanks was about $503,000 and he is currently bidding three more contracts that will travel by barge up the river.