Intalco plant to stay open through 2018

By Steve Guntli

Alcoa has signed a deal that will keep its Intalco aluminum plant in Ferndale open for another two years.

Alcoa and the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) finalized a short-term amendment to their power agreement on May 2. In a press release, Alcoa management said the amendment would keep the plant operating through at least February 14, 2018.

Architects of the deal are hoping the additional two years of operation will give the global aluminum market a chance to recover, and potentially save the plant in the long term.

BPA and Alcoa announced the deal last month. BPA, which provides power to the Alcoa plant, agreed to a short-term energy amendment that would keep the plant going. Alcoa will purchase more of its energy on the spot market, meaning Alcoa can purchase power from lower-cost sources on a bid basis.

Additionally, Alcoa will pay BPA $1.5 million for some of its surplus power. The proposal was subjected to a public comment period, which ended April 22 and was met with universal approval by those in attendance.

The extension was also made possible by a $3 million grant from the Washington State legislature, which was included in the final 2016 state budget approved in late March.

Alcoa announced plans to curtail their aluminum smelting operations in November 2015. The curtailment would have cost 465 Whatcom County jobs, and another 400 in Wenatchee. Only the casthouse, which forms the aluminum, was to remain open, employing about 100 people. The company stated the decision was due to the low world aluminum prices.

Intalco employees were originally scheduled to be laid off in March, but the cutbacks, now canceled, were subsequently postponed until June 30.

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