By Andrea Watts
When fifth-generation logger Stephen Reidhead was inspired by his wife Trish to start Tri-Star Logging in 1986, he couldn’t have foreseen that industry changes in the 1990s would force him to exchange logging in the hills surrounding the city of Snowflake for grinding up the citrus orchards to make way for Phoenix development. Yet these grinding jobs kept his business viable, and the experience positioned Reidhead to take advantage of another industry change that was coming to northeast Arizona.
Biomass Plant in Snowflake
In 2008, Snowflake Power, now called Novo BioPower, opened a 27-megawatt biomass power plant in Snowflake at the former site of the Catalyst Paper Corporation’s recycled paper manufacturing plant. The economic viability of the biomass operation was possible because of the numerous thinning projects underway in eastern Arizona’s White Mountains. The 2002 Rodeo-Chediski Fire, which burned through 450,000 acres of the White Mountains, called attention to the need for active management of the surrounding national forests and private lands. In 2004, the White Mountain Stewardship Project issued an ambitious 10-year contract to Future Forest LLC to thin 150,000 acres of ponderosa pine forests.
Seeing a chance to escape the Phoenix valley, Reidhead’s Tri-Star Logging returned to the mountains and worked as a subcontractor for Future Forests for seven years before striking out on their own in 2011.
“This biomass opportunity [with Novo BioPower] came up, and we just moved the grinders up here and just started grinding the biomass,” Reidhead explains. “It turned out to be a blessing; we knew how to grind.”
Looking for Answers
To meet Novo BioPower’s daily demand (currently the plant burns about 150,000 tons a year), Reidhead realized he had to upgrade their grinder capacity. Their current model that worked well in the orchards produced a finer quality of wood material that wasn’t necessary since the material would be burned. But what was more problematic was the grinder required more maintenance, which meant downtime they couldn’t afford. When Reidhead put in a request to Kimball Equipment Company in Phoenix, searching for another grinder model, it just so happened the dealership had recently become the dealer for Terex CBI Ecotec.
Chuck Petersen, a salesman for Kimball Equipment Company, has worked with Reidhead since that initial request. “They had tried a lot of different equipment, and they really know what they like and don’t like,” say Petersen. “They were looking for just what the CBI 6800 could do.”
What the CBI 6800 can do is handle the production demand of 45 loads of biomass a day with minimal downtime. This is possible because CBI’s design distributes the horsepower across all the teeth, resulting in fewer teeth breakages. The grinder can also handle root balls — previously, Reidhead’s crew would have to cut the stumps off, Petersen says. Tri-Star Logging received its first grinder in March 2016, and “because the first one was saving them so much.”
Even though the equipment may not require maintenance, Petersen still visits Reidhead’s jobsites regularly to see the machines in action and is impressed with the work that Reidhead and his crews are doing to clean up the forest. “The power plant needs more biomass, and Stephen was ready to invest. It actually works well,” says Petersen.
“It’s been very good so far,” Reidhead says in regard to how the grinders have performed.
“We’ve had two years on one and one year on another, and we’re contemplating a third one. It does a real good job.”
Each grinder is paired with an excavator with an overhead grapple that feeds the woody debris into the grinder’s bed.
The woody debris is the byproduct of the logging operations that Tri-Star Logging is currently working on for the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI). This initiative is a collaborative effort to restore the Coconino, Kaibab, Apache-Sitgreaves, and Tonto national forests in northern Arizona.
“We do more than anybody,” says Reidhead proudly. The company’s five sides, along with subcontractor Canyon Creek, process 21-26 log loads a day that are trucked to either Noble Star Wood Products or other local mills. Noble Star Wood Products is a sawmill venture that Reidhead started three years ago in conjunction with Novo BioPower. “It took a while to work out the bugs and get everything going, but we’ve turned a corner this spring,” he adds.
Taking out the Weeds
And it’s not just forest restoration that is keeping Reidhead’s grinders busy. The company also has a three-year contract with the South Zone Grassland Restoration to remove the encroaching juniper and scrub brush cedars. “They call them trees, but we call them a bunch of thick weeds!” Reidhead explains. “They grow like crazy. It’s an eyesore. They drink up all the water and don’t leave anything for the animals.” With the area restored, he says that the elk herds have returned, and the cows love it.
Reidhead is proud of his company’s contribution in restoring the forests. “What I like about the biomass [project] is it cleans up the forests. We actually are restoring the forests.” Yet there is another positive outcome that has come out of his company taking on these large-scale contracts in addition to increasing the bottom line.
“I have five sons. I was going to be the last one to do logging because it’s a tough industry,” he says. “My oldest son [Allen] started going into the woods with me, about the time we started grinding.”
Later his sons Jeffrey and Kevin, also joined the team, helping the expansion of Tri Star Logging with his last two boys Timothy and Matthew who are coming on to help manage NovoStar sawmill. “It’s going on one more generation,” Reidhead says. “I can’t find a better crew than my boys to work with.”
On the Cover
Lindsey R. Mohlere captures David Jackson operating a CAT 325D paired with a Log Max 10000 processing head
NW Strike Teams Battle Fire Northwest strike teams demobilize after fighting the Thomas Fire.
First on the Slope
Siegmund Excavation & Construction offer full-service, steep-slope logging.
Taking a Chance on Changes
Tri-Star Logging had no idea of industry changes when it started out in 1986.
World’s Second-Largest Yarder
Dahlgren’s tower boosts productivity with Series 60 engine repower.
Man on a Mission
Todd Smith’s love of old logging equipment.