March 13, 2018

Volume Number 16


Issue Number 06

The Ports-to-Plains staff travelled to Washington, DC February 26 – March 1 to meet with our Congressional delegation and USDOT staff. Our trip was timely as the Trump Administration unveiled their infrastructure proposal last month. Our message to Congress was that we support a robust infrastructure plan and that it should include adequate funding and policies for rural multi-state corridors like Ports-to-Plains.

It appears that our message was heard. In a Senate hearing on the infrastructure initiative, Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE), Chair of the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security in the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee asked Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, “On the rural infrastructure program, the proposal included language to develop rural interstate projects and an important interstate expressway project that we have in the state of Nebraska is in our panhandle and that's the Heartland Expressway. It's part of the larger Ports to Plains corridor that runs north to south across this country. And when it's completed, the Heartland Expressway will provide greater access for our agricultural products to the country. It's going to help to have this multi-lane divided highway access. Can you elaborate on how rural interstate projects would qualify for rural funding under the president's proposal? Is there anything specific on rural interstates, especially when they connect through states from Canada to Mexico like the Ports to Plains project does?”

Secretary Chao replied, “Well, the department has sent guidelines, principles, and we did not send legislative language and that is an indication that we want to work with the Congress on how to define some of these things.”

Following that hearing and comment by Secretary Chao, Senator Fischer asked Ports-to-Plains Alliance to provide her language that could be beneficial to qualifying rural multi-state projects under the administration’s proposal.

There are still many questions about a federal infrastructure plan, including program details and even if Congress will be able to pass such legislation this year. We have several articles about that in this newsletter. Of course Ports-to-Plains will continue to advocate for funding for the corridor in any legislation that emerges, and we are returning to Washington to deliver that message with our board of directors during our fly-in next month.

Michael Reeves, President

We are a voice for our small town, grassroots members who may otherwise not have access to the right audiences, as well as a conduit for industry to come together in support and promotion of transportation improvements.

We are committed to working as an Alliance to improve transportation infrastructure and business networks opportunities, by advocating for appropriate funding levels, so business and industry can thrive.

We are focused on the economic and business interests that are the lifeblood of the region.


New Research Identifies Best Practices for State Freight Plans

The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) today released its report on best practices in freight planning at the state level. The report will allow state Departments of Transportation and their consultants to better address those freight planning components that are viewed as most critical by FHWA, state DOTs and State Trucking Association leaders.

ATRI called for nominations of innovative state freight plans from state DOT personnel and freight stakeholders nationwide. The top twelve plans then formed the basis for an “Ideal Attributes Checklist,” by which the other state freight plans were assessed. The state plans are also compared against FAST Act-required and recommended components. In summary, the process synthesized minimum freight planning requirements along with innovative practices and mapped nearly 50 different freight plans against the “model freight plan” framework.

The report’s Ideal Attributes Checklist, along with lessons learned and the various innovative practices highlighted within, will allow freight planners to consider a broad continuum of freight planning techniques for their next freight plan updates. The highest ranked plans utilize a variety of tools including quantitative industry data, visualizations, project prioritization tools and strong reliance on Freight Advisory Committees, among other approaches.

Texas was the highest ranked freight plan in ATRI’s research based in part on the state’s use of detailed commodity and freight flow data in developing its plan, as well as active engagement of its Freight Advisory Committee throughout the planning process.

“We are excited to be able to contribute our knowledge base to this important effort, and even more flattered that we were chosen by our peers as a model freight plan,” said Caroline Mays, Director of the Texas Department of Transportation’s Freight Office. “That said, our freight work has really just begun.”

Other states receiving top accolades in ATRI’s report include Georgia, California, Mississippi, Iowa, Florida, Washington, Michigan, Ohio, Nevada, Maryland, and Alabama.

For access to the full report, please click HERE.

House Transportation Subcommittee Mulls Ways to Fix Highway Trust Fund

Members of a House transportation subcommittee seem largely in agreement that the nation’s crumbling infrastructure and near-insolvent Highway Trust Fund are in desperate need of fixes — and quickly.

However, at a March 7 hearing, they agreed less on what long-term funding mechanisms should be used to make the financial, and road and bridge repairs.

“Long-term certainty and stability in infrastructure funding is critical for our states,” said Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), the Transportation Committee chairman. “Without it, our states, our economy and the American people face the consequences. Highway and transit projects get delayed, project costs go up, and our people and businesses continue to suffer the impacts of congestion and inefficiency.”

Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, agreed.

“Beginning as early as the spring of 2020, states may have to halt construction of surface transportation projects because, once again, the Highway Trust Fund will not be able to meet its obligations,” Graves said. “There are many reasons for this – motor fuel taxes have not been raised in 25 years, fuel-economy standards have increased, not all users pay into the Trust Fund.”

Read on...

Senate Republicans Cast Doubt on Trump's Public Works Plan 

The Senate’s No. 2 Republican cast doubt on whether Congress will be able to enact President Donald Trump’s plan to upgrade U.S. public works this year, raising questions about whether a top administration priority will be done before the November elections.

“It will be challenging,” Senator John Cornyn of Texas said in an interview Tuesday. “I certainly would be happy if we could, but we’ve got a lot of things to do, that being one of them, and I don’t know if we will have time to get to that.”

The White House said Trump expects Congress to act on the president’s proposal.

“The president presented his infrastructure outline earlier this month and has charged Congress with moving as quickly as possible to rebuild our nation’s crumbling infrastructure, an issue that 84 percent of Americans consider a top priority,” deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters said.

Cornyn’s comments come two days before the first congressional hearing on Trump’s plan, when Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is set to testify before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. The White House released Trump’s long-awaited infrastructure proposal on Feb. 12, a 53-page document meant to be the outline for legislation and the starting point for negotiations with lawmakers on the details.

John Barrasso of Wyoming, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, “continues to work on robust, fiscally responsible infrastructure legislation,” spokesman Mike Danylak said. The committee has already held 10 hearings in infrastructure issues, he added.

Recognizing that there are challenges to passing any major legislation, Representative Bill Shuster, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, thinks the House can get a bill completed this year, spokesman Justin Harclerode said.

Read on...

Agriculture Industry Eager for Action on Infrastructure 

The fate of American agriculture hinges upon the strength of the nation’s infrastructure, according to Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Duvall, a third-generation farmer who specializes in beef cattle and poultry, stressed the importance of delivering infrastructure projects to support farmers and the movement of goods. Beef cattle, as opposed to dairy cattle, are raised for meat production. Duvall spoke at the National Governors Association’s winter meeting Feb. 24.

“Infrastructure’s so important. Road, bridges, dams and locks are so important,” Duvall said. “What sets us apart from the rest of the world is our infrastructure. Yes, it is crumbling, but we have a president who wants to rebuild it.

President Donald Trump unveiled his infrastructure proposal, which calls for $1.5 trillion in infrastructure investments over 10 years, Feb 12.

Overall, $200 billion in direct federal funds would be sought to achieve the plan’s desired top line. From that, $100 billion would be made available for an incentives program for states and municipalities, $50 billion would be allocated for rural projects through block grants to governors, $20 billion would be dedicated for a “transformative projects program” for futuristic contrivances, $20 billion would be used to enhance federal credit programs and broaden the use of private activity bonds and $10 billion would back the creation of a Capital Financing Fund.

States can find flexibility with their infrastructure projects in the portion of funding allotted to rural America, according to Ray Starling, special assistant to the president for agriculture, agricultural trade and food assistance.

Read on...

What is NAFTA?

Most of the conversation centered on food circles around the same issues, such as “What are GMOs” or “Where is the organic produce?” Or “Local is better.” At D2D, we wanted to explore the role international trade plays in bringing food to your dinner table.

While you are selecting avocados or blueberries at the grocery store, the last thing you are thinking about is Mexico. Or when you eat a ham sandwich, does Canada come to mind? Probably not. But these are just a few of the products that depend on trade between North American countries to satisfy our food demands.

Year-round availability of many food products occurs largely because other countries can either grow them cheaper than the U.S. or have growing seasons that are opposite of ours. Trade provides the best possible price for the products we want by moving food from where it is grown and produced to where it is eaten. It is an efficient, universal means of bringing balance to supply and demand, and taking the wild swings out of our daily food prices.

Those opposed to NAFTA, on the other hand, argue that the influx of produce from Mexico or Canada negatively affect their prices. For instance, the avocado farmer in California is able to sell the farm’s produce at a premium if avocados are not being imported from Mexico. However, NAFTA can encourage farmers to be more dynamic and versatile in their farming practices. Today, some farmers in California are adapting by diversifying into coffee plants.

Read on...

7 Essentials to Understanding the Build America Fund

PDF Download

Xcel Energy Works With Stakeholders For Plainview, New Mexico Wind Energy Farms 

Xcel Energy and stakeholders have taken another step toward boosting regional wind energy production.

Xcel filed a stipulation recommending the Public Utility Commission of Texas approve a proposal to build and own wind farms in Texas and New Mexico that would add 1,230 megawatts of new wind generation, according to a Tuesday news release.

The stipulation aims to remedy key concerns stakeholders had about the projects near Plainview and Portales, New Mexico. Wes Reeves, a spokesman for Xcel’s Texas and New Mexico regions, said in an email that negotiations like these are common when proposing expansion of electrical facilities that would impact customer rates.

The agreed upon stipulations include: guaranteeing customers will see a positive net benefit from the wind facilities for the first 10 years of operation; capping the base rate cost recovery at 102.5 percent of the estimated construction costs; crediting customers through their monthly bill 100 percent of production tax credits related to actual wind generation from the facilities; provide a minimum production guarantee of 48 percent for 25 years, including a credit to Texas retail customers’ fuel expense, should actual production output fall below a 48 percent net capacity factor.

The parties also agreed to rate mechanisms that will provide Xcel the ability to closely match the start of cost recovery in Texas retail rates with the in-service date of the wind facilities in the summer of 2019 and fall of 2020, according to the news release.

David Hudson, president of Xcel Energy-New Mexico, Texas, said in the news release that the company is looking forward to continuing the project.

Read on...

Here Comes The Sun: Construction Set For Large Solar Power Near Lamesa

Lamesa has high rates of solar radiation -AKA sunshine - and OCI Solar Power is tapping in.

Charles Kim, CEO and president of OCI Solar Power, said that played in to the decision by OCI and Renewable Energy Systems (RES) to start the Project Ivory Solar Facility in Lamesa.

On Tuesday, representatives from OCI and RES hosted a meeting for Lamesa community members for an update and to answer questions about the plans to build Dawson County’s second solar panel plant just outside Lamesa city limits. Construction of Project Ivory, also recognized as Lamesa II, is expected to begin in mid- to late-March or early April.

“Well, it’s been a windfall, to say the least, for everyone involved,” said Lamesa Mayor Josh Stevens.

The project will generate about 100 short-term jobs throughout construction, a handful of permanent positions, and land lease contracts for many land owners through at least the next 25 years, he said.

Lamesa I was started by BNB Renewable Energy Holdings LLC and was sold to Southern Power. RES worked with the company to build the facility, according to Drew Raines, construction manager for RES.

According to a fact sheet on the Southern Power website, the first phase of the Lamesa Solar Facility includes 410,000 solar panels spread across 887 acres and provides 102 megawatts of power.

Bart Geleynse, director of construction business development, and Timothy Heinle, vice president of business development, said the solar facility works by drawing renewable solar energy and passing it on to a grid where different companies that buy into it can tap in.

For example, Lamesa is currently providing power to Garland, according to a fact sheet on the Southern Power website.

 Read on...

Ports-to-Plains Alliance Staff D.C. Fly-In

Deb Cottier, Board Member of Heartland Expressway Association and Joe Kiely, V.P. of Operations at Ports-to-Plains Alliance, visits with Congressman Adrian Smith of Nebraska during the recent annual staff fly-in to Washington D.C. 

Local to Global Forum: Vermilion, Alberta

Ports-to-Plains Alliance President, Michael Reeves speaks at the Easter Alberta Trade Corridor's Local to Global Forum last week in Vermilion, Alberta


Eastern Alberta Trade Corridor Chairman,Jay Slemp looks on as Alberta MLA Jessica Littlewood addresses the EATC’s Local to Global Forum last week in Vermilion, Alberta 

Mark Your Calendar for the Ports-to-Plains Annual Conference


Mark your calendars! The 21st Ports-to-Plains Annual Conference has been scheduled for October 30 - November 1, 2018 in Del Rio, Texas

Stay tuned! More details coming soon!

Extension of I-27/Ports-to-Plains Corridor

The proposed extension of Interstate 27 will also serve the agriculture industry including many of Texas top counties for the production of cotton, cattle, sheep and goats and other commodities.

Has your organization considered the resolution supporting the Extension of Interstate 27?

Have you individually added your name supporting the Resolution?

Please share with your Texas Friends!

Please click here to add your personal name to the Resolution in Support of Expansion on Interstate 27

Please click here to downland a draft organizational resolution for consideration by local governments and non-profit organizations. (Word Document)

Upcoming Events



March 13, 2018 - Presentation, South Plains Association of Governments, Lubbock, Texas

March 15, 2018 - Presentation, Dumas Lion's Club, Dumas, Texas

March 15, 2018 - Heartland Expressway Association Board Meeting, Kimball, Nebraska

March 28, 2018 - Presentation, Rotary Club of Lubbock, Lubbock, Texas

March 29, 2018 - TxDOT Open House, Proposed US 87/US 287 Improvements in Dumas, Dumas Texas

April 12, 2018 - SelectUSA Canada Conference, Calgary, Alberta

April 16 - 20, 2018 - D.C. Fly-In, Washington, D.C.

October 30- November 1, 2018 - 21st Ports-to-Plains Annual Conference, Del Rio, Texas

Ports-to-Plains Alliance Staff

Michael Reeves

5401 N MLK Blvd. #395
Lubbock, TX 79403
P: 806-775-2338
F: 806-775-3981

Duffy Hinkle
Vice President of Membership & Marketing
5401 N MLK Blvd. #395
Lubbock, TX 79403
P: 806-775-3373
F: 806-775-3981

Joe Kiely
Vice President of Operations
PO Box 9
Limon, CO 80828
P: 719-740-2240
F: 719-775-9073

Jeri Strong
Executive Assistant
Ports-To-Plains Alliance
5401 N. MLK Blvd. Ste. 395
Lubbock, TX 79403
P: 806-775-3369

Cal Klewin
Executive Director
Theodore Roosevelt Expressway
PO Box 1306
22 E Broadway
Williston, ND 58802
P: 701-523-6171

Deb Cottier
Board of Directors
Heartland Expressway Association
706 West Third St.
Chadron, NE 69337
P: 308-432-4023

Jay Slemp
Eastern Alberta Trade Corridor
212 2nd Ave. W
Box 820
Hanna AB T0J 1P0
P: 403-854-0424