Board picks top choice for rail project

By Pat Caldwell

The Enterprise

VALE – A public board working to build a new rail shipping center in Malheur County has focused on a preferred site with two others still under consideration.

The Malheur County Development Corp. last week met in executive, or closed, session to consider the sites and won’t publicly say yet which site it thinks is best suited for the multi-million dollar project.

The public development corporation will use $26 million from the state to finance the project. At the rail shipping center, farm products are trucked in and loaded onto trains that can make a run to the East Coast in days. Each train holds several hundred truckloads of goods, lowering freight costs and speeding delivery.
The center, which could employ up to 125 people, is expected to be a big boost for Malheur County’s onion industry.

The three sites under serious review for the rail center are near Nyssa and Ontario. The Nyssa site is just north of town. The Ontario site – which actually consists of two parcels of land – is situated south of town on each side of the railroad tracks.

The panel also considered two sites inside Nyssa, both at the Amalgamated Sugar factory.

By state law, the public doesn’t have access to executive sessions held by the board. That means the final site under consideration will remain confidential until after a purchase arrangement has been made.

Greg Smith, Malheur County Economic Development director, was scheduled to brief the Malheur County Court this Wednesday on the site choices. That, too, will be done in executive session.

Privately members of the board said they wish to be prudent regarding the location of the preferred site because they fear prices for land could be artificially inflated.

The next major step for the nonprofit corporation is to apply to the state for initial planning money. The deadline is Dec. 15 to seek the money from the Oregon Transportation Commission.
Have a news tip? Contact Pat Caldwell at [email protected] or 541-473-3377.