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Economic and dam related articles

Fast Tracked

by Elaine Williams
Lewiston Tribune, June 5, 2016

New rail traffic rules drive major upgrades at port

A new siding for the railroad spur into the Port of Wilma is being built alongside CHS Primeland's 70,000-square-foot storage facility at the west end of the Port of Wilma. Credit the railroads for the new warehouses that CHS Primeland and the McGregor Company have constructed at the Port of Wilma just west of Clarkston.

CHS Primeland expects to have its 70,000-square-foot warehouse for dry fertilizers fully operational before the fall. The site has another 2.5 million gallons of storage for liquid fertilizers.

Just down the road, McGregor completed a similar facility last year. Its warehouse is 48,000 square feet, and the site has tanks with a holding capacity of 3.5 million gallons.

Both agricultural companies located their largest storage facilities at the Port of Wilma because of access to infrastructure for trucks, barges and trains. But it's what's happening in the rail industry that dictated the size of each of the structures.

It used to be that the major rail lines, Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Union Pacific, were happy to send two or three cars to a customer at once and not expect them back for 10 days, said Joe Poire, executive director of the Port of Whitman County.

Now they deal in 110-car trains and want the cars returned in three days, Poire said.

The private and public sectors have cooperated to accommodate what the railroads are expecting. The solution involves existing Watco tracks, an upgrade of the Port of Wilma's rail lines (see related information) and the ability of CHS Primeland and McGregor to remove and store rail cargo quickly.

Watco is the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley's only railroad owner-operator of lines that run from Lewiston to eastern Washington, where they connect with Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks.

Watco can receive 110-car trains in a yard between the Red Wolf Bridge and the Port of Lewiston, keeping them off the main line that ends at Clearwater Paper in Lewiston, said Ted Kadau, the rail company's director of marketing for the western region.

From there, Watco can take smaller groups of cars along recently upgraded tracks at the Port of Wilma to a spur at McGregor and one that CHS Primeland will install as it completes its project, Kadau said.

This is different than the unit train operations at Ritzville and McCoy because the warehouses there are equipped for the lengthy trains to pull up directly outside, Kadau said. "Moving the cars around (at the Port of Wilma) takes a lot of time. It's not the optimal type of situation."

Once the rail cars reach the warehouses, they can be turned around quickly. Both warehouses can unload 12 cars every four hours.

The buildings have similar conveyor belt systems that take shipments from dump sites on the ground to the tops of the warehouses where they're dispensed into huge bins.

The warehouse at the CHS Primeland complex can hold the contents of 240 rail cars. McGregor's can hold 200 rail cars and has 11 bins that run the length of a 400-foot building.

Accepting products in bulk keeps costs down for farmers because rail lines charge more to ship in smaller quantities, said Ken Mingo, seed and agronomy division manager for CHS Primeland.

"The industry had to step up to the desire of the railroads to increase their efficiency."

Related Pages:
Shipping Authority Seeks to 'Adopt' Portland by Staff, Port Strategy, 5/12/16
Here's Why Portland Won't Get New Shipping Container Service Anytime Soon by James Cronin, Portland Business Journal, 5/9/16

Elaine Williams
BNSF, Port of Portland Partner to Shuttle Freight to Seattle
Lewiston Tribune, June 5, 2016

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