GRAND FORKS - It's already difficult for Curt Kirking, co-owner of Cavalier Bean Co., to catch his breath during harvest season. This year, Kirking has been even more busy figuring out how he and other nearby agriculture companies can repair the railroad bridge they rely on for shipping, which they lost to a grass fire late June.
Kirking said he has spent "hours and hours on the phone" and sent "hundreds of texts and emails," but he was proud to announce construction starts Wednesday.
"Ultimately, what we've done, is seven or eight of us that use the rails committed funds to rebuild the bridge," Kirking said, including Kelley Bean and Walhalla Grain as just a few contributors, along with local banks and the city of Cavalier.
Railroad-dependent businesses learned only nine days before the fire Dakota Northern, the company leasing the track from Burlington Northern Santa Fe, would no longer pay for any major repairs from Hensel to Walhalla. At a meeting with local legislators and state officials last month, companies learned they would have to pay for a short-term solution themselves to make harvest season.
Companies and donors are paying $57,000 to replace the old wood frame bridge with culverts, Kirking said, which are premade structures allowing traffic to cross atop a water way. "It's equally as secure, if not more," Kirking added.
Once the track is decent, Kirking said cars will run again. Dakota Northern agreed to service the track as long as it's safe, according to a letter it sent companies in June.
Cooperation with neighboring businesses has been "amazing," Kirking stated. "I mean, we could use the rail right now," he added, "but it is what it is. We're just trying to get things motivated right now."
For Cavalier Bean Co., harvest has already begun.
"We're shipping a few trucks out that we had scheduled earlier, but right now it's more taking the harvest in, and we're concentrating on that."