In a special meeting Monday, Hannum, Wagle and Cline Engineering Professional Engineer Brian Pohlar provided an update to the Clay County Commissioners about the current status of the Chinook Mine Rail Analysis.
"We are currently working on an economic development plan, which will include potential redevelopment for the area," Pohlar said. "We still have about a month to six weeks to go before the report is completed."
He added there is approximately $25,000 left on the $200,000 grant provided by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as a reserve in case additional services were requested. To receive the grant, a $50,000 match was required and provided by three companies (United Biofuels, Resource Landholdings and Headwaters Energy Services).
The study of the Chinook Mine area and the existing rail system began in April with aerial photography and mapping, along with a field analysis of the rail infrastructure on the Indiana Rail Road from the CSX crossing at Springhill Road in Terre Haute to one-mile east of Riley and the Chinook Mine Branch to the coal load-out loop in Clay County.
"We can also do future mapping that will include topographical information and location of wetlands, vegetation and other buildings in the area," Pohlar told the commissioners. "This will be useful for industries interested in the area to see what is there to better design new development."
One requirement included in the analysis was a mist net survey for the Indiana Bat, which is on the Endangered Species List.
"In June, Eco-Tech Consultants had four mist net sites put up to determine the potential presence of a summer roosting habitat for the Indiana Bat," he said. "We were looking mainly for female bats as they would create the potential for maternity colonies."
Pohlar added of the 14 bats captured, checked and safely released during the survey, only three were Indiana Bat, all of which were non-reproductive males.
Along with the approximately 72,000 feet (13.6 miles) of rail line, a field analysis of the drainage conditions and washout areas were also identified during the study.
"During our analysis of the rail, we found while the mine closed in late 1998, the last train went out of the area in January 1999," Pohlar said. "We also found some washout areas, which may have occurred during the June 2008 flood, and some drainage improvements will be needed."
Pohlar informed the commissioners while much of the rail line is in good shape throughout, a lot of work will be needed to repair and replace the ties.
"In the Chinook Branch of the rail line, approximately 90-98 percent of the ties are damaged or rotted and would have to be replaced," he said. "Also, they would also have to be upgraded by adding more stakes to enhance the stability of the line."
Pohlar said the total cost of all the repairs to the entire line would be $4,317,199, which includes an estimated $2,319,485 for an almost entire rebuild of the track structure of the Chinook Branch.
"Realistically, the next step to take would be to get the lines cleared from the brush and take care of the storm repairs, which would be about $900,000 to complete, and is included in the total estimated cost," he said. "We are looking into possible additional grant funding from the USDA, but the county may want to look into creating a partnership with Vigo County, with part of the rail being in their area."
While Pohlar said the economic development plan is in its early stages, the rail analysis may go a long way to helping attract industry to the area.
"We are currently gauging interest in the area, which could expand exponentially should CSX decide to identify it as a megasite area, which they are considering," he said. "Plus, right now, the owners of the Chinook area are focused on the aspect of the developing the area."
Due to the Labor Day holiday, the next regular meeting of the Clay County Commissioners will be 9 a.m., Tuesday, Sept. 8, in the Commissioners' Courtroom at the Clay County Courthouse.