RAIL AUTHORITY SETS FIRST MEETING

August 26, 2002 12:00 am

The Wallow-Union Railroad Authority will have its first meeting at 3 p.m. Wednesday in Elgin City Hall.

The Wallowa and Union County commissioners created the authority to manage the rail line from Elgin to Joseph. The line, once owned by Idaho Northern and Pacific, is open now from Elgin to Wallowa, and Idaho Northern is running trains to Wallowa Forest Products two or three times a week.

The members of the authority are county commissioners Mike Hayward of Wallowa County and Steve McClure of Union County. Other Wallowa County members are Enterprise Mayor Susan Roberts and Steve Adams of Alder Slope. Union County members are Elgin City Councilor Mark Stauffer, La Grande developer Mark Davidson and Gene Hardy, who owns property adjacent to the rail line. Jim Seifert, who works for the Oregon Department of Transportation and lives in Wallowa, has been appointed by both counties.

During the first year of operation, Idaho Northern will maintain and manage the line from Elgin to Wallowa. The railroad company has said it will open the line to Joseph if business allows. After the first year, the authority will assume management and maintenance of the rail line.

The counties purchased the railroad with a $2 million allocation from the Oregon Legislature and a $4.5 million loan from the state's Economic and Community Development Department.

The county commissioners have said that the loan will be repaid with funds generated by the railroad's operation.