Legislature approves quality testing program for in-state lumber


The Legislature has passed and is sending to the governor a bill intended to reduce the cost of Alaska-made lumber for housing projects.

After it is signed into law by Gov. Mike Dunleavy, the legislation would set up an in-state quality testing system for lumber produced by Alaska sawmills. Currently, that lumber must be tested and graded by a national standards organization, and bringing an outside grader to Alaska adds significant costs, state forester Helge Eng said last fall.

The state House overwhelmingly approved Senate Bill 87, sponsored by Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, of Nikiski, on May 1. The Senate passed the measure without opposition on April 26.

Under the legislation, the University of Alaska Fairbanks would hire a teacher who would train sawmill operators to self-test their wood. Those wood products would be restricted for use in single-family homes, duplexes or triplexes. An independent building inspector would verify the quality of the lumber.

“Locally milled dimensional lumber that conforms” to state standards “could be sold directly to the end user or a contractor for use in residential structures,” Bjorkman explained in a sponsor statement.

The quality-testing training program would be available at no cost to individuals and sawmill operators. The Department of Natural Resources estimates it will cost the state $221,000 per year to run the program.

The legislation was backed by loggers and environmental groups, with letters of support from the Nature Conservancy, Alaska State Home Building Association and several small sawmills.

The Alaska Beacon is an independent, donor-funded news organization. Alaskabeacon.com.


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