McBain Biewer Sawmill plans for 25% more railcar shipments

Biewer Sawmill and McBain are working on a rail spur extension project for the sawmill.

MCBAIN — If an extension goes according to plan, Biewer Sawmill in McBain could increase its annual railcar shipments by 25%.

Shawn Johnston, general manager of Biewer sawmills in McBain and Lake City, said the company is currently working with McBain, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy and the Michigan Department of Transportation to do a rail spur extension.

A rail spur is a stub track that splits from main or other tracks that provides access to industrial or commercial areas, according to CSX Corporation’s railroad dictionary.

The sawmill is extending the spur by 600 feet to increase the volume of railcars shipped out of the facility. It wants to do this north of the facility, but there is a wetland in the way of the extension.

If you fill in a wetland you have to create a wetland twice its size, so Biewer Sawmill is working with the city for mitigation of the wetland, Johnston said.

He said if they want to fill in this 1.8-acre wetland they will need to create around 4 acres of wetland, which will be created on city property.

At its May meeting, the McBain City Council unanimously voted to do what it needed to do to support the expansion, according to the meeting’s minutes.

Mayor Joey Roberts said the new wetland will be by the city's sewer ponds.

The city and sawmill have a good working relationship and he's excited they're doing more projects there, he said.

Right now the company is working through the permitting phase and working on discussions and observations, but will hopefully be able to start excavating afterward, Johnston said.

He said they increased production by 60% with the mill opening in December 2018 so now they’re trying to get everything else caught up with it.

In 2017 they shipped out 18 railcars and in 2018 they shipped out 150 railcars. Once they are done with the extension, the intent is to ship over 200 railcars annually, he said.

One railcar can have three truckloads of product on it and this will allow the company to get more freight to more customers at a farther distance.

“It is pretty significant,‘ he said.

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