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Lyons Falls mill redevelopment may include biorefinery

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LOWVILLE — Lewis County legislators on Tuesday morning got an update on redevelopment plans, including a biorefinery component, for the former Lyons Falls Pulp and Paper mill.“There are some good things on the horizon there,” Eric J. Virkler, Lewis County’s economic development director and a Lewis County Development Corp. board member, said at a legislative Economic Development Committee session attended by most lawmakers. “Money is always the issue.”

Applied Biorefinery Sciences, a spinoff company from research conducted at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, is eyeing a 15-year-old “chemical building” at the plant site to set up a wood-chip chemical extraction operation, he said.

The company has conducted laboratory testing on the procedure, which draws eight to 10 different chemicals from the chips, but it still must be tested for commercial viability, Mr. Virkler said.

That would occur over a 12- to 18-month period in the existing building, and the company, with a successful trial, would likely construct a larger manufacturing facility either at the old mill site or in the vicinity, he said.

However, the proposed business, which would sell both the chemicals and wood pellets for use as a fuel source, will first need to secure a substantial amount of start-up capital, Mr. Virkler said.

Another company is also looking at possibly using a warehouse at the mill site, he said.

The former Lyons Falls Pulp & Paper plant shut down in January 2001, idling 186 employees. The Lewis County Development Corp. one year ago formed a subsidiary, Black Moose Development LLC, through which it purchased 10 acres of the former mill property off Center Street with the intent to redevelop it.

The corporation is moving forward with an asbestos survey of the old mill buildings in cooperation with Northbrook Lyons Falls, which owns an adjacent six-megawatt dam and connecting buildings

It received a $350,000 Empire State Development grant toward the project as part of the December announcement of regional economic development awards.

While a contract for that funding has yet to be received from the state, it appears to be intended to help cover an initial, $500,000 phase of environmental review and demolition planning, Mr. Virkler said. The full project will likely cost a few million dollars, he said.

The committee did sign off on a joint application with the development corporation for further funding through the federal Economic Development Administration, but the full Legislature must still approve it at its next meeting. The county cost would be covered by in-kind services by economic development office staff, Mr. Virkler said.

The development corporation also plans to rehabilitate a short railway spur at the former mill using a $95,320 grant from the Northern Border Regional Commission that was awarded in October.

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