N.C. Port of Morehead City

Top State Commerce Department officials seek investment from the N.C. Railroad Co. to help make construction of a proposed woodchip-export facility possible in Morehead City at the southeast corner of the port facility, shown near the right edge of the photo. (Dylan Ray photo)



Edit to correct location of proposed wood pellet processing facility. According to the N.C. Ports Authority,the proposal is to store and export from the port pellets that are processed elsewhere at a wood pellet processing facility.

MOREHEAD CITY — State Commerce Department officials last week asked the N.C. Railroad Co. to invest $7 million per year for at least 10 years to help pay for a planned woodchip export facility at the state port here.

According to reports, State Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco and Ports Authority Executive Director Tom Bradshaw made presentations to the N.C. Railroad Co. board of directors during its meeting Thursday in Raleigh.

Officials say the planned woodchip facility, for which private industry investment is sought, would provide bulk-handling of wood pellets formed elsewhere at a wood pellet processing facility for export to Europe where the pellets are to be used as an alternative to coal for generating electricity.

According to reports, Mr. Crisco told the board members that he believed the effort could directly create more than 200 jobs in the timber business and hundreds of other jobs in related fields.

But the railroad board isn’t rushing into any decisions.

“The board is in the process of reviewing the proposal and is expected to meet in late October or early November to determine the railroad’s response to that request,” N.C. Railroad Co. President Scott Saylor said Tuesday. “The board will also seek input from the General Assembly and the governor’s office about the merits of the proposal.”

The N.C. Railroad Co. is the state’s oldest corporation and receives no state appropriations. It owns and manages the 317-mile rail corridor running from the N.C. Port of Morehead City to Charlotte, carrying up to 60 freight trains and 10 passenger trains daily.

“If approved, these proceeds would be derived primarily from Norfolk Southern’s lease payments to the railroad,” Mr. Saylor said.

The proposed woodchip facility is planned for the southeast corner of the Morehead City port.

Port Operations Director Rex Edwards said Tuesday four alternative plans have been developed.

“The four options would all essentially tear down two warehouses, building bulk buildings in their place,” Mr. Edwards said.

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