Greg Smith, Malheur County economic development director, talks to the Oregon Transportation Commission during a spring meeting. The Malheur County Court drafted a letter of support for the project today. (The Enterprise/File).

VALE – The Malheur County Court wants state officials to approve a $26 million rail reload facility north of Nyssa and consider the proposal separate from similar ventures planned in the Willamette Valley.

In a one-page letter approved by the court Wednesday, the county asked the Oregon Transportation Commission to “fund the center, regardless of a decision on the western Oregon competing projects.”

DOCUMENT: County Court letter to OTC

According to the letter, “the reload center is paramount to the agricultural economy of the region. The Malheur County Court sees unlimited growth potential of the facility with the center becoming a hub of transportation for the entire Treasure Valley area.”

Viewed by some as a major local economic game-changer, onions will be trucked into the proposed Nyssa facility and loaded onto trains for shipment across the country.

The funding for the project comes from House Bill 2017, a massive transportation plan approved by the Oregon Legislature two years ago. A seven-member nonprofit board was appointed by the county court to oversee the project.

According to the county, the center would cut costs for onion growers and shippers by about $2 million a year. The center is projected to employ seven people year-round and up to 19 seasonal workers, according to the county.

For more than three years, lawmakers and area elected officials worked to make the project a reality.

Malheur County officials anticipated a green light for the facility from the state in January. But access to the state money needed to build the facility has been delayed for months over lingering questions.

Late last month, state officials appeared poised to reject the proposal but decided to give supporters more time to answer questions about rail service costs, shipping prices, provide a business plan and furnish proof the facility will carry a sustainable customer base. Answers to those questions are due to the state by July 12.

 Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.

SUBSCRIBE TO HELP PRODUCE VITAL REPORTING -- For $5 a month, you get breaking news alerts, emailed newsletters and around-the-clock access to our stories. We depend on subscribers to pay for in-depth, accurate news produced by a professional and highly trained staff. Help us grow and get better with your subscription. Sign up HERE.