Port of Morrow

The Neal Early Learning Center continues to expand.

If you’re ever looking for new growth and development in Eastern Oregon, the Port of Morrow in Boardman is always a safe bet.

Last week, during a meeting of the Columbia Development Authority, port director Ryan Neal shared that while COVID-19 has shut down the SAGE Center and the port’s offices, from a business standpoint they have been busy.

A project known as the East Beach rail extension, which will add 25,000 feet of track for use by port businesses, will be finished later this year.

The port is using state and federal grant dollars it received in late 2018 for the Columbia River Barge Terminal Rail Access Project, which will allow the port to offer rail-to-barge shipping capabilities. The rail extension, along with developing Terminal 1 and Terminal 3 with rail access, is the first part of the project.

Neal reported that design for the rail-to-barge-portion should be done within a month, with construction beginning in early 2021.

The port is also working on expanding its water and wastewater infrastructure. Neal said they are working on a loop system for their water system in the East Beach Industrial Park, which should be done within the next 12 months. Port employees are also working on their application for a water reuse system that will allow recycled water to be reused on agricultural land.

The City of Boardman passed a $20.3 million bond last month to add it its own water and wastewater infrastructure nearby. The money will pay for a water booster pump station, an approximately 1 million gallon water reservoir, a new water collector well, a 13-acre lagoon, wastewater lift stations and acquiring land for the projects.

Neal said the expansion of the Neal Early Learning Center is currently under construction, and while it has been held up due to some supply chain issues related to COVID-19, it should be complete in early October.

The center is a collaborative effort between the Port of Morrow, InterMountain Education Service District, the Morrow County School District and Umatilla-Morrow Head Start and stands adjacent to the Blue Mountain Community College’s Workforce Training Center.

“It will be a good facility for the region,” Neal said.

Other parts of Morrow County are also seeing growth.

The Wheatridge Renewable Energy Facility, located just north of Lexington, is currently under construction.

The project by Portland General Electric combines wind turbines, solar panels and battery storage. According to the East Oregonian’s reporting when the project was first announced in 2019, it will be the largest facility of its kind in the United States — enough to power the equivalent of 340,000 homes.

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