Timber Innovation Act heads to president’s desk

Kilmer-backed measure passed easily through House and Senate in farm bill

PORT ANGELES — Legislation that aims to accelerate the research and development of wood for use in construction projects is heading to the president’s desk after the farm bill, which includes the Timber Innovation Act, passed through the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.

The Timber Innovation Act, which U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., reintroduced in the Senate this year and U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, helped introduce in the House, will help speed up research and development of wood products, such as cross-laminated timber (CLT), in large scale building projects and is expected to boost the state’s growing CLT production.

The bill passed through the Senate 87-13 last Tuesday and through the House 369-47 on Wednesday.

“The Timber Innovation Act will create new jobs across rural Washington by fostering innovation. The building technologies promoted in our bill, like cross-laminated timber, will bring several wins to Washington, including faster construction of buildings, more eco-friendly buildings and new timber jobs,” Cantwell said in a statement.

The $867 billion farm bill is intended to help those in the agricultural industry by expanding farm subsidies and includes language legalizing industrial hemp production, The Hill reported.

The legislation will incentivize investment through the National Forest Products Lab and American colleges and universities to conduct research and development on new methods for the construction of wood buildings.

“Building with new wood technologies and wood that is sustainably harvested will lead to more jobs and mills on the Olympic Peninsula and taller, more earthquake-resistant buildings in Seattle,” Kilmer said in a statement.

“That’s a vision that I call timber 2.0, which is a sustainable plan that will reinvigorate timber communities, lead to healthier, sustainably managed forests and ultimately create more economic opportunities for more people in more places.”

Cross-laminated timber was used in construction at Greywolf Elementary School in Carlsborg that was finished in June 2017. It was one of five schools across the state participating in the pilot project.

Cross-laminated timber is driving the effort to replace concrete with wood in construction.

New “mass timber” technologies, such as CLT, are becoming more frequently discussed in Washington. Research on building with CLT is underway at Washington State University and the University of Washington.

The Port of Port Angeles has sought to locate a CLT business in Clallam County. Port officials have said there could be potential for a public-private partnership and that using Olympic Peninsula timber for CLT would create more of an opportunity to better manage and to thin unhealthy forests.

Karen Goschen, executive director of the port, said the legislation is important for the Olympic Peninsula and said the port applauds the passage of the Timber Innovation Act.

“Washington state is a leader in adopting these exciting technologies, and the Port of Port Angeles is actively pursuing concepts to integrate new technologies for the use of Western hemlock in mass timber for housing and other uses,” she said in an email.

“We are pleased that the federal government may be able to assist in these important efforts. The port appreciates the work and support of Congressman Kilmer, Senator [Patty] Murray and Senator Cantwell on this important bill.”

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].

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