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Future of rail service remains deadlocked for Napa-Platte line

PIERRE -- The state Railroad Board remained in a holding pattern Wednesday about restoring service on the Napa-Platte rail line in south-central South Dakota.

The board renewed its short-term lease with the Napa-Platte regional railroad authority and the sublease for Dakota Southern to operate the state-owned track.

Regular traffic hasn't moved on the line for some 30 years, however.

Meanwhile new and old plans continue to swirl and stagnate and clash, without any progress.

The latest friction is whether Dakota Southern is benefiting financially from federal tax credits that legally can be sold to others.

State board member Carl Anderson, of Aberdeen, said the panel has tried to be patient.

"We've been waiting for the chicken or the egg to step up to the plate for about 10 years now," Anderson said.

Dakota Plains Ag Center's board has been trying to get clearances to build on the line in Yankton County but now is looking at the Tabor area in Bon Homme County, according to Matt Winsand, who manages the Parkston location.

"No more politics need to be thrown into the mix," Winsand told the state board.

Jack Parliament, who runs the Dakota and Iowa Railroad based at Sioux Falls, said Wednesday he would like an opportunity to operate on the Napa-Platte route. He is a former member of the state board.

"We want to keep our toe in the water," Parliament said.

The sentiment in part of the audience Wednesday was that Dakota Southern can remain the sublease holder for now, but the regional authority should get to choose the operator in the future.

The lease and sublease can be terminated without fault upon 30 days notice. What might happen next isn't clear.

"We're looking out for what's best for the state," the state board's chairman, Todd Yeaton, of Kimball, said.

He operates the new elevator there along the state-owned Mitchell-Rapid City line that is being gradually renovated by Dakota Southern, the state railroad office and the MRC regional authority.

Restoration of service on the Napa-Platte line promises to be a major benefit for farm producers who need to ship commodities from the south-central region of South Dakota.