Five grain cooperatives in Central and Eastern Washington will build a major rail loading facility on the West Plains to ship wheat on BNSF Railway lines.
The $26.4 million project near Interstate 90 along Craig Road will protect existing shipping rates for growers in the region, said Kevin Whitehall, chief executive officer of HighLine Grain LLC, which was formed to undertake the project.
The co-ops are the investors in the project, he said.
Whitehall is also CEO of Central Washington Grain Growers, a member of the consortium.
The other participants are Almira Farmers Warehouse Co., Davenport Union Warehouse Co., Reardan Grain Growers Inc. and Odessa Union Warehouse Co.
A building permit application for the first phase of the project is pending with Spokane County. The initial permit involves foundation work this fall.
The project brings an important private investment to the West Plains and underscores the significance of rail service in that area, County Commissioner Al French said.
The facility will assemble 110-car trains for shipment on BNSF lines. It will include off-loading and loading capabilities, using a large circular track for train assembly.
Member farmers currently use the Palouse River & Coulee City Railroad short line to move grain cars to Cheney for shipment on BNSF lines.
The plan calls for bringing grain shipments to the West Plains facility in smaller “scoot trains” for transfer to the trains that will be assembled at the new facility.
Whitehall said the project will preserve the favorable bulk rates currently applied to shipments from the region.
“We are working together on this,” he said of the investor co-ops and their farmer members.
The project is under environmental review by the county with a public comment period set to expire Monday.
John Pederson, county planning director, said a small wetland on the site would not be disturbed but would be circled by the track.
The loop track would be 7,250 feet long. Another 9,720 feet of auxiliary track are in the plan.
The facility, which has been in the works for two years, would have an eight-pack of connected grain bins to hold a million bushels of wheat.
The main eight-pack structure would be 190 feet tall.
The facility also would be able to handle truck deliveries for shipment, but Whitehall said most grain will arrive by rail.
In addition to the transfer and loading facility, the project also is seeking government funding for 6.9 miles of short line track improvements from the facility to Cheney at a cost of $6 million. Those improvements include upgrading load ratings of the rails, better ballast and improved crossings.
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