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Port rail service in the works

NATCHEZ — Local economic development officials have long said rail service is an important part of the area’s future. Now, the county is taking the first steps to build more rail service into the Natchez-Adams County Port.

The county has begun the process of advertising for bids for the construction of rail infrastructure that will lead to the terminal where Fores Frac Sand will load and unload its products.

Engineer Doug Wimberly with Jordan, Kaiser and Sessions — the county’s engineering firm — said the new rail construction would be an 800-foot spur off of the existing port rail system into the Fores lot.

Canadian-based Fores North America announced a partnership with Blain Sand and Gravel in April 2012 in which both companies would form new entities — Fores would start Fores Frac Sand and Blain would form Magnolia Frac Sand — to produce materials used in hydraulic fracking, an oil and gas extraction process that fractures rock beds to release gas and petroleum that might not otherwise be accessible. Magnolia will mine and dry sand and Fores will process it into a fracking product. The two companies are expected to ultimately create a combined 60 jobs.

When the announcement was made, Fores North America Vice President for Business Development Tony Little said the logistical abilities of the port to move product were a significant consideration for their decision to locate in Adams County.

Adams County Board of Supervisors President Darryl Grennell said building the rail spur into the Fores terminal was something the county agreed to do as an economic recruiting incentive.

“A lot of these companies, when they come in, they need these types of incentives in terms of infrastructure improvements to allow them to locate in an area,” Grennell said. “Those are the types of incentives that you have to put on the table in order to bring these companies in.”

Wimberly said bids for the rail construction will be received in early March, and the contract for completing it will be either a 90- or 100-day agreement.

The ultimate price of the project will be determined by the submitted bid. Grennell said a portion of the money to fund the project would be provided through the Mississippi Development Authority.