County reaches an agreement with local farm family on disputed rail crossing

Robin Froerer points out the railroad line at the Gem Avenue railroad crossing north of Nyssa. The county and Froerer Farms reached an agreement Thursday that will allow the operation access to its property on the east side of the railroad line. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell).

NYSSA – An agreement between Malheur County, its development company and a local farm family has been reached regarding a rail crossing dispute near the site of the Nyssa rail reload facility.

Under the terms of the pact, the county will pay up to $400,000 for a mile-long road to allow Froerer Farms truck access to its agriculture land during harvest and planting season on the east side of the Union Pacific Railroad line north of Nyssa.

The money, whose source is not identified in the agreement, is subject to the approval of the state Transportation Department.

The agreement also mandates a gag order for the Froerers, stipulating they are banned from “any statement to the local, state or federal media” regarding the rail reload project until it is finished.

At issue was a decision by Union Pacific to close the Gem Avenue crossing about two miles north of Nyssa to make way for the rail reload project.

The Froerers farm a total of 4,000 acres – including 1,100 near the Gem Avenue crossing – and employ up to 125 people at the height of harvest season.

The closure of the railroad crossing potentially meant the Froerers – one of the largest onion producers in the county and the owners of Owyhee Produce – could be forced to haul their goods from their land several miles north to another railroad crossing at King Avenue.

Robin Froerer, a partner in the family business, said she tried for more than a year to work with the county to find a solution but was unable to make any progress. The Enterprise chronicled that effort in a report published two weeks ago.

The new agreement was announced Friday and was signed by Malheur County Judge Dan Joyce and Commissioners Don Hodge and Ron Jacobs, Grant Kitamura as president of Malheur County Development Corp., and the Froerers.

The county agreed to either build a road south of Gem Avenue to Gamble Island Road or north from Gem Avenue to King Avenue for the Froerers.

The plan to build a road south to Gamble Island Road is reliant on the Froerers obtaining an easement from Alscott Farms, which owns the property where the new road would go.

If that does not occur, the county agreed to construct a roadway north from Gem Avenue to King Avenue.

This story will be updated.

 Previous coverage:

Railroad opts to close Nyssa crossing, disrupting long-standing farm operation


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