Juntura roadwork to start soon

The Enterprise

SALEM – Help is on the way for the Juntura Road, a byway described as a critical need for the planned expansion of a mining operation in rural Malheur County.

State officials earlier this month unveiled a partnership with local officials and EP Minerals LLC to ensure funding of the road project.

The repairs will allow EP Minerals, which employs about 150 people now, to increase production and add some 20 jobs, officials said.

The project will cost $6.7 million, and the construction is expected to begin as early as this summer.

To pay for the rebuild, Business Oregon, the state’s economic development agency, will commit $415,570 in lottery-sourced funds from its strategic reserve fund and $315,000 from its special public works fund. The balance comes from Harney and Malheur Counties, EP Minerals, the Oregon Department of Transportation, the Federal FLAP program, and an Oregon legislature allocation.

“Transportation improvements like the rebuilding of Juntura Road is a catalytic project for rural Oregon, creating jobs, growing businesses, and supporting communities,” said Gov. Kate Brown.

EP Minerals produces diatomaceous earth for use as a filtering agent, natural pesticide, and other purposes.

County and state officials have been in talks with EP minerals since 2014 to come up with a plan to address the disrepair of Juntura Road. The company has been maintaining the road with an understanding that the county and state would pursue a long-term solution.

“Having Juntura Road rebuilt will allow us to continue to increase production as the demand for diatomaceous earth continues to grow,” said Jon Godla, vice president of Operations for EP Minerals.

The road is located in neighboring Harney County, and services over 172,500 acres of federal land including two well-used hunting units, grazing land, cultural sites, and several recreation sites. It was not built for the current level of use, and is past the point of patch repairs.

State Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, thanked state officials for their support, noting it comes amid numerous other requests for infrastructure projects.

Greg Smith, Malheur County Economic Development director, lauded the partnerships behind the deal.

“The positive economic impact from the replacement of Juntura Road will be felt in our region for years to come,” he said.

Also in the process of discussing the road, the team found an opportunity for the company to purchase wood pallets from an Oregon company, that it had previously been sourcing from an out-of-state firm. Malheur County’s Economic Development office worked closely with the company to make this happen.