April 26, 2002 11:00 pm

ENTERPRISE — An Oregon Department of Transportation rail inspector will testify about the condition of an abandoned rail line in Wallowa County during a public hearing Monday.

The hearing will begin at 9 a.m. in the Wallowa County Circuit courtroom.

Wallowa County is considering purchasing the Elgin-to-Joseph line, now owned by the Idaho Northern Pacific Railroad and abandoned in 1994.

Wallowa County Planner Bill Oliver said that the county will discuss the condition of the rails and the price of the rail line and equipment. He said the sale price includes two engines, passenger cars and other equipment.

Jim Seiffert of ODOT was part of a team of inspectors who physically reviewed the rails earlier this week.

Union and Wallowa counties have been negotiating with the railroad, headquartered in Forth Worth, Texas, for more than a year. At one time, the counties were considering buying the full line from La Grande to Joseph but could not raise the approximately $15 million purchase price.

The Oregon Legislature set aside $2 million from Lottery funds to help the counties buy the line. The counties, however, must establish a separate entity, such as a railroad authority, to make all decisions about the purchase and management of the line.

Union County will begin discussions on the creation of the authority during its regular meeting beginning at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

— From Observer staff reports