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State rail board will get feds' inspection reports

PIERRE — The regional head of the Federal Railroad Administration said Wednesday the South Dakota Railroad Board would receive inspection reports on all state-owned lines.

Regional Administrator Mark Daniels said providing the reports could "be advantageous" when another party operated a railroad owned by state government.

The state board leases lines to regional railroad authorities, which are locally controlled and are separate from the federal agency. The authorities in turn lease sublease lines to railroad companies.

Daniels told members of the state board the federal agency took an extra look at the state-owned Mitchell-Rapid City line because of an accident.

The track structure required a closer look, according to Daniels, who said he also learned the line received federal grant funds.

Dakota Southern, owned by Mike Williams of Kansas City, Missouri, operates the MRC line.

No one represented Dakota Southern or Williams at the meeting, which was publicly noticed and held at the state Department of Transportation building in Pierre. At least one person for the company had attended many previous meetings.

A federal inspector wrote up Dakota Southern for 11 counts of a hazardous-material violation Sept. 5, 2017. Train cars carrying liquid natural gas were stored too long on the Wheat Growers siding at Kennebec.

Michael Pirato, the regional track specialist for the federal agency, said Dakota Southern was one of three short lines randomly selected for focus inspections under a national safety program plan.

Several members of the state board said they want to see the federal reports. Daniels said he thought the state board already received them.

Ken Naylor, the regional chief inspector, said he hadn't been asked to provide them. Naylor said he would send reports to officials at the state Department of Transportation.

Joel Jundt, the state department's deputy secretary, said he recently received the latest round of reports from inspections about two weeks ago. Jundt said he would review the reports and deliver a summary to the state board at the June meeting.

Board member Steve Scharnweber of Pierre said he wants to see records showing whether remedial work occurred.