April 09, 2002 11:00 pm

WALLOWA Wallowa Forest Products began a second shift this week with eight employees, who had been laid off, returning to work.

The stud mill, owned by D.R. Johnson of Prairie City, had been running one shift with 41 employees.

Six of the swing shift workers are people who were previously laid off at the Wallowa mill. Two had worked for Joseph Timber, which laid off 47 employees in February when the mill shut down.

John Redfield, Wallowa Forest Products production manager, said the swing shift will work full, eight-hour shifts.

The shift should give us about a 50 percent increase in production, he said.

The mills main product is the standard 8-foot 2-by-4s. The mill also produces some 1-by-4s and 2-by-6s. Lengths vary from 4 to 7 feet in addition to the standard size.

Things are looking up, and we hope to expand more. Well give it a go anyway, Redfield said. I hope we will see more Forest Service land cut loose (for logging).

Redfield said the sawmill had a fair amount of logs available, adding, Were anticipating a good spring to get a stable supply of wood. I think were headed in the right direction.

With the closure of the Joseph mill, the Wallowa plant is the only sawmill operating in Wallowa County.

Joseph Timber owners have said they anticipate reopening in June, but no official announcement has been made. Owners said poor market conditions and lack of raw materials were the main reasons for the February shutdown.

Ray Linker