SD Railroad Board struggles over future of Napa-Platte lineAfter meeting for five hours, the board agreed to ask for amended proposals from three organizations and take the matter up again at the board’s next meeting, scheduled for May 16.
By: Bob Mercer, Republic Capitol Bureau
YANKTON — The South Dakota Railroad Board couldn’t reach agreement Wednesday on whether to sell the state-owned line between Napa and Platte or continue leasing it to the regional railroad authority.
After meeting for five hours, the board agreed to ask for amended proposals from three organizations and take the matter up again at the board’s next meeting, scheduled for May 16.
The three still in the running are:
The Napa Platte Regional Railroad Authority, which currently holds the lease, and proposes to scrap out the western 26.6 miles of track from Ravinia to Platte and put the proceeds toward starting to rehabilitate the remainder of the line.
Wagner Native Ethanol, a project that previously held the rights to buy the line but has failed so far in its six-year quest for financing, offered $1.5 million to purchase the eastern 54.5 miles from Napa to Ravinia, and sought to scrap out about 38 miles of the 83-mile total length and apply the proceeds toward rehabilitation of track between Napa and Wagner.
Dakota Southern Railroad, which currently operates on the line under a contract with the railroad authority and has offered $2,176,000 to buy the entire line.
Board members were clearly split but there wasn’t a clear majority among the seven members.
Chet Groseclose Jr. of Sioux Falls and Carl Anderson of Aberdeen favored returning the line to private operation. Dan Baker of Rapid City, Jack Parliament of Sioux Falls and Ron Mitzel of Rapid City said the line should stay under the authority’s management.
Gary Doering of Yale and chairman Todd Yeaton of Highmore didn’t openly indicate where they stood on the basic question of sell or lease, although Yeaton said that ideally the board would sell all of the remaining state-owned lines if the right deals could be struck.
The board received five proposals. One withdrew prior to the meeting. The board rejected another one, from Central States Rail Associates, of Denver, that proposed the line remain leased to the regional authority and CSRA be the operator.
The board has struggled for several years regarding how to handle the option that had been granted by a previous resolution to sell the line to Wagner Native Ethanol. That resolution was rescinded last year.
But what happens next isn’t certain on a track that has great potential for grain shipping but has served little purpose for decades, other than to store empty rail cars at times.
“We have seven different opinions. We’re like herding cats,” Yeaton said.