<HTML> <HEAD> <TITLE>96 Governor Gregoire, Watco Sign Railroad Purchase Agreement, Staff, Wheat Life</TITLE> </HEAD> <body bgcolor="FFFFFF" text="000000" link="0000FF" vlink="FF0000" alink="0000FF"> <basefont face="Arial, Tahoma, Times New Roman" size="3" color="#000033"> <TABLE border="0" width="100%" cellspacing="0"> <TR align="left" valign="top"> <td><small> <A href="https://sgi25.netservers.net/bluefish.org/thefilm.htm">the film</A><br> <A href="forum.htm">forum</A><br> <A href="library.htm">library</A><br> <A href="tutorial.htm">tutorial</A><br> <A href="contact.htm">contact</A> </small></td> <TD> <A href="economic.htm"><img src="images/economic.gif" border="0" width="110" height="110" align="center" alt="Economic and dam related articles"></a> <TD> <CENTER><FONT FACE="Arial, Helvetica" COLOR="0000FF"> <strong><BIG><H2 align="center">Governor Gregoire, Watco Sign
Railroad Purchase Agreement</H2> </BIG></STRONG></FONT><FONT COLOR="FF0000">by Staff <BR>Wheat Life, March 2007</FONT></CENTER> </TABLE> <HR> <P align="left"> Last January your Association held a meeting in Ritzville billed as "Planning Session for the future of the Palouse River–Coulee City Railroad Lines."

WAWG Transportation Committee Chairperson Debbie McGourin was given the honorable job of "Cat Herder," as it was a very mixed crowd of rail operators, shippers, growers, state agency personnel and elected officials at the WAWG Planning Session for the future of the Palouse River-Coulee City (PRCC) railroad who had come together. We had a simple agenda-discuss the current situation regarding the CW (Central Washington) and the P&L (Palouse Line) rail lines with WATCO, the rail operator, and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT); allow shippers to discuss their concerns; have comments from growers who use the lines, and recommend a plan of action.

Since that initial meeting in Ritzville, there have been several meetings, e-mail messages exchanged, and phone calls by all who participated. The results of all those actions have finally come to Governor Christine Gregoire signing a Memorandum of Understanding with Watco Companies, Inc. for the purchase of the CW line of the Palouse River Coulee City (PCC) Railroad. The 300-plus-mile freight rail system is the second largest system in the state, provides local rail service to over 70 rail-dependent companies and serves hundreds of local farmers.

"Washington, for the first time, will become the owner of a critical operating rail system that supports a large portion of our agricultural community," said Governor Gregoire. "If the legislature had not stepped up, if the farmers, WSDOT and Watco had not all participated in making this happen, this critical infrastructure would be lost."

"Although recent years have been challenging, the Palouse River and Coulee City Railroad has been an integral part of eastern Washington rail since 1992," said Watco Companies, Inc. Senior Vice President–West Region Mark Blazer. "We remain encouraged that the agreement we have reached is a mature approach to continued rail service in eastern Washington."

WSDOT and Watco (the current owner of the CW line) have been in negotiations for two years regarding the acquisition of the CW line. This Memorandum of Understanding represents the successful conclusion of these negotiations.

The PCC Railroad is comprised of three branches: the P&L branch from Marshall to Pullman, the PV Hooper branch from Hooper to Thornton and Pullman and the CW line from Coulee City to Cheney and Spokane. WSDOT in 2004 purchased the rights of way and rail for the P&L branch and the PV Hooper branch.

The purchase of the PCC Railroad provides a unique opportunity to create a viable, competitive railroad system that will serve Washington farmers and manufacturers for years to come. It will provide the agricultural and manufacturing communities with options for shipping and receiving products. Benefits to Washington from this purchase include lower shipping costs due to the competitive opportunities offered, additional jobs within the rail-dependent industries and a platform for possible future growth along these rail corridors.

Watco will continue to operate all three branches until May 31, 2007. They will continue as the operator of the PV Hooper branch as long as they meet the terms and conditions of the existing operating agreement with WSDOT. Current plans call for operation of the P&L branch and the CW line to be advertised for bids by WSDOT, so that service will continue beyond May 31, 2007.

"This small railroad is a critical transportation link for farmers and growers, and a key component for future economic development in the area. Agriculture is a key part of our state and regional economy, so it's not an overstatement that we believe keeping the grain-hauling trains running is a legitimate and worthy investment for the citizens of Washington."
--Rep. David Buri, Colfax

"Because of higher fuel costs, it's important to give farmers another alternative than just trucking to move their crops and other goods to markets or processing plants. Today's action will help keep the short-line railroad in operation, which will benefit our region's agriculture industry and possibly help diversify the economy in the West Plains area."

--Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville and ranking Republican on the Senate agriculture and Rural economic Development Committee

"Wheat farmers and other growers rely on the railroad to affordably ship their crops, but lots of other businesses such as seed companies and farm chemical dealers also use it to get their products to their customers. I'm very pleased that we're able to provide assurances to those people in the ag community that depend on the railroad that it's going to be there for them in the long term. People from both sides of the aisle have come together to get this done, and it's been a great effort by everyone involved."

--Rep. Steve Hailey, R-Mesa

<HR> <strong>Staff</strong><br> <A href="http://www.wheatlifemagazine.com/0307/pg18_0307.pdf"> <I>Governor Gregoire, Watco Sign Railroad Purchase Agreement</I></a><BR> <strong>Wheat Life</STRONG>, March 2007 <HR> <P align="center"><CENTER> <BIG><strong>See what you can learn</STRONG></BIG><P> <A href="topic.htm">learn more on topics covered in the film</A><BR> <A href="https://sgi25.netservers.net/bluefish.org/video.htm">see the video</A><BR> <A href="script.htm">read the script</A><BR> <A href="songs.htm">learn the songs</A><BR> <A href="forum.htm">discussion forum</A><BR> <IMG src="salmon_swimming_md_wht.gif" width=150 height=70 alt="salmon animation"> </CENTER> </basefont> </body> </HTML>