$25,000 BNSF certification could help Port Authority site

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Kootenai River Development Council is applying for a grant through Big Sky Trust Fund to certify as an industrial site 200 acres of the 420 acres of Kootenai Business Park that border the railway.

Tina Oliphant, executive director of Lincoln County Port Authority/Kootenai River Development Council, presented the information at a county commissioners meeting on Wednesday, June 21, asking for a letter of support from the commissioners to include in the grant application.

Certification will come from BNSF Railway, which has been providing industrial certification for seven or eight candidates annually since 2015, according to the BNSF website.

The BNSF website also says that the site certification program identifies “optimal rail-served sites for customer development along BNSF’s network” and aims to “minimize development risks customers may face” by guaranteeing the site has met inspection standards.

An engineering firm will be hired in the fall to produce a site overview, including zoning regulations, floodplain data, assessments of environmental and cultural resources, accessibility and services such as utilities.

Oliphant said that gaining certification for the land — on which a rail spur, expected to be completed in August, is being constructed — would “increase our market readiness.”

Certification will cost up to $25,000, said Oliphant, noting that the Port Authority will provide matching funds of about $12,500 to make up the total cost.

The Port Authority’s goal is to find an industrial tenant or buyer who would benefit from rail access.

“It’s very expensive to find rail access, and there’s not a lot of new development,” said Oliphant, explaining the appeal of the industrial land to investors.

County commissioner Mark Peck said in a June 22 phone interview that the commissioners support Kootenai River Development Council in their efforts to become certified with BNSF because “having these things [inspections] in place ahead of time is important, because having development ready land is appealing for new industrial developers, it expedites the process for them.”

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