Rail facility plan leaps forward

By Pat Caldwell
The Enterprise
ONTARIO – Local officials will spend the next year and more than a million dollars studying whether a site north of Nyssa for a new rail reload facility will work.
The move forward comes after the Oregon Transportation Commission last week approved disbursing $1.3 million to allow the Malheur County Development Corp., – a local non-profit board set up by county officials to oversee the rail reload center – to lay the groundwork for the facility.
The money will be used for a business plan, a market analysis, site and building design, engineering and permitting, said Greg Smith, the county economic development director.
The board picked the Nyssa site over a competing location in Ontario. A total of $26 million has been set aside by the state for the reload facility. The project is considered a major economic prize for the county.
Smith said he expects to meet with state transportation leaders this week to finalize the first financial piece.
“I anticipate we will enter into some kind of contractual agreement,” said Smith.
Smith said the initial stage will last about a year.
After that, said Smith, the corporation will go back to the state to ask for the remaining $24.7 million.
“We will say ‘here is our market analysis, please release the rest of the money,’” said Smith.
Smith, who is also on the board of the Malheur County Development Corp., said the non-profit will play an important role in the next year.
“Their role will be to provide guidance and oversight and they have as fiduciary responsibility that I am carrying through with what I am doing,” said Smith.
Smith said the board will furnish expertise on specific elements of the reload facility.
Smith said it is hard to overstate how important the rail reload facility will be for the county.
“What we are about to create, if we do it correctly, is a distribution center that will move commodities through the world,” said Smith.