Wind farm construction puts stress on eastern railway yard

Wind farm construction puts stress on eastern railway yard

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Officials want to expand Shutler Station, which is congested by wind farm construction (top); wind turbine parts are stored at Shutler Station (bottom).
PHOTOS COURTESY OF ERIK ZANDER

New wind farm construction is straining the capacity of Shutler Station Industrial Park to the point that Gilliam County officials are asking for a state grant for additional railway track.

The industrial park, which is eight miles south of Arlington, is being used as a “wind distribution center” for turbine parts for Shepherd’s Flat and Leaning Juniper wind farms. Wind companies are transporting parts to the construction site via rail instead of trucks because it is cheaper. Hillsboro-based Morgan Industrial, a heavy industrial-machine mover, has been leasing 15 of Shutler Station’s 90 acres since August 2009. It unloads turbine parts as they come in on rail, stores them, and later transports them to the construction site.

Shutler Station currently has 5,900 feet of rail track. Trains transporting wind parts are at least 6,000 feet long. “Right now, we don’t have enough rail to accommodate the larger size trains,” says Erik Zander, the distribution center’s project manager.

Gilliam County is applying for a $635,600 ConnectOregon grant to build an additional 2,250 feet of track. The grant is administered by the Department of Transportation, and will be awarded in August.

“I reviewed nine or 10 projects,” says Clark Jackson, a state business development officer for Gilliam County. “I felt that the job potential ranked it up to one of the highest ones.”

Jessica Bates, Gilliam County’s economic development officer, says construction of the new track could be completed by next spring. Bates believes the project eventually will go forward despite the recent nationwide moratorium on wind farm consruction by the Federal Aviation Adminstration because of military concerns.

The additional track could bring more economic activity unrelated to wind farms. Bates says that any construction south or east of Arlington uses Shutler Station. Gilliam County commissioner Dennis Gronquist says the additional track would make the industrial park more valuable. Rock, wheat and other commodities could be transported out of Gilliam because of the additional rail. “We’re pretty limited right now, but we hope to grow,” he says. 

AMANDA WALDROUPE