Construction anticipated on grain project near KimballKIMBALL — At least one massive grain-loading facility will be built soon between Kimball and White Lake, and another could be built northwest of Kimball, according to backers of the respective projects.
By: Seth Tupper, The Daily Republic
KIMBALL — At least one massive grain-loading facility will be built soon between Kimball and White Lake, and another could be built northwest of Kimball, according to backers of the respective projects.
The state Department of Transportation and the Minnesota-based Construction Bulletin issued a joint news release Thursday stating unequivocally that “two grain elevators will be built near Kimball.” The Daily Republic called representatives of both projects and found that while one is reportedly very near the construction phase, the fate of the other is apparently less certain.
Chuck Jepson, whose Liberty Grain LLC group plans to build what he’s called an “elevator on steroids” about six miles east of Kimball, said he is committed.
“We are building,” Jepson told The Daily Republic. “The only reason we haven’t started is because the wheat’s on the field yet, and I promised the farmer he could get the wheat off.”
Jepson said construction will start soon and will hopefully be completed in time for next year’s harvest. The facility’s entrance will be located about a mile north of the Interstate 90 and state Highway 45 junction, which is six miles east of Kimball and seven miles west of White Lake.
Jepson said a rival plan that involves Dakota Mill and Grain, of Rapid City, will not deter him.
“I can’t imagine what would stop us from building it at this point,” he said.
Brain Hammerbeck, of Dakota Mill and Grain, told The Daily Republic his plans are not as absolute as the state press release made them sound.
“Is it absolute? I would say no, but we are very committed to doing it,” Hammerbeck said.
Dakota Mill and Grain is pursuing its project on a site that includes the Kimball airport, which the company has negotiated to buy from the city of Kimball. The land is located just northwest of Kimball, and some city officials support the site because it would require increased truck traffic to come through the city and potentially patronize Kimball businesses, while Jepson’s site would not lead traffic through the city.
Hammerbeck said it’s possible both projects could get built. Both would reportedly cost upwards of $20 million to construct.
When asked if construction at the other site would deter him, Hammerbeck said “right now, no” but added “obviously, having competitors five or six miles apart will create some issues. To say it wouldn’t would be stupid.”
Both projects are attempts to capitalize on an ongoing $28 million rehabilitation of the state-owned rail line from Mitchell to Chamberlain.
The rail work was made possible by a $16 million grant from the federal government’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program, which was awarded in October.
Another $12 million for the project will come from the Dakota Southern Railway Company, the Mitchell to Rapid City Regional Railroad Authority and the South Dakota Railroad Board, the state news release says.
The backers of the grain-loading facilities hope to use state Highway 45 to collect grain by truck from South Dakota’s westward-expanding grain belt. Once loaded onto railcars, the grain is expected to be hauled to Seattle for shipment to Asia, where demand for grain is expanding thanks in part to explosive economic growth in China.
The state DOT press release says Jepson’s facility will have a 1.5-mile loop track, 2.5 million bushels of upright concrete storage, and a 25,000-ton fertilizer plant.
The release says Jepson’s company will hire 70 to 100 construction workers for more than a year to build the grain elevator and, once complete, the elevator will have 12 to 15 permanent employees.
The new elevator could handle 400 to 600 trucks each day dumping 100,000 bushels an hour, the state news release says. Jepson estimated the maximum number of bushels of grain entering the facility in a year at 15 million.
During peak harvesting, the facility would see one to two trains a week in addition to the trucks. Trains can haul a half-million bushels each, and he expects to see 30 trains move through the facility in a year.
Jepson estimates producers hauling grain to the elevator near Kimball will cut about 82 miles in each round trip and save an estimated $1.2 million in fuel costs. These savings, the possibility of higher prices for the grain, and access to more markets mean more money for South Dakota farmers, ranchers and businesses, the state news release says.
“By raising the basis by 20 cents a bushel, nearly $3 million in additional producer profits will be realized from decreased transportation costs,” Jepson is quoted as saying in the release. “This is money that goes directly back into the local economy.”
The release says work on the rail rehab project began in late May at the Mitchell end of the line with crews working their way west to replace rails, ties and ballast. Carl Michael, project superintendent with Kanza Construction of Topeka, Kan., said his crew, which he refers to as the “tie gang,” is removing and replacing about 1,500 to 1,700 railroad ties per day.
Ron Radika, inspector with CDI Inc., an engineering firm in Brookings, walked the 61.6 miles of track to mark the ties that needed to be replaced. On this stretch of railroad track, about 3,500 ties per mile are under the rails, and an average of about 1,600 ties per mile will be replaced for a total of 106,000 ties.
Michael said his tie gang consists of 23 workers, and he will increase the number of employees to about 100 people in the next few weeks when he begins hiring workers for the rail replacement phase of the project.
The current 65-pound-per-yard rail will be upgraded to 115-pound to 136-pound-per-yard rail, which will withstand heavier and more frequent rail traffic loaded in the larger jumbo hopper grain cars.
When rail replacement begins, two crews will work simultaneously to lay up to 7,000 feet of rail per day. Additional work includes upgrading switches to handle more grain car traffic.
The completion date for the rehab project is Dec. 31, but all major work should be accomplished by the end of November.