Construction Starts on Biggest Port Project In More Than 60 Years
Milwaukee project intended to make Wisconsin export hub for ethanol byproduct.
Construction is underway on a $35 million agricultural maritime export facility on Jones Island. It certainly doesn’t have a sexy name, but, according to all involved, it is a big deal for the Port of Milwaukee and Wisconsin.
For one, it is the largest investment in the 467-acre port since the Saint Lawrence Seaway opened in the 1950s. It’s also a first of its kind facility for the Great Lakes.
How can it do both?
The facility, which will be operated by the Clinton-based DeLong Company, will be primarily used to export to Europe, the Middle East and Africa a nutrient-rich byproduct of converting corn to ethanol. The new complex will play a critical transloading role in connecting Wisconsin’s nine ethanol plants as well as those in southern Minnesota, northern Iowa, South Dakota and North Dakota with foreign markets where animal feed is in short supply. It will also enable exports of other farm products.
A railyard, capable of storing 110 hopper cars, and a truck terminal, will feed into storage facilities that can store 45,000 metric tons (1.7 million bushels) of the byproduct. Located directly adjacent to the inner harbor, the facility will then be capable of loading 6,000 metric tons of the byproduct per day into vessels that can carry 10,000 to 20,000 metric tons. Project partners hope to export between 160,000 to 300,000 metric tons annually, with an estimated $40 million worth of goods being shipped in the first year.
“In case you guys haven’t noticed, we are having a supply chain problem,” said Congresswoman Gwen Moore.
A 2020 port report said that the project would eliminate 1,600 truck trips annually. Six of Wisconsin’s nine ethanol plants currently truck DDGS past Milwaukee to an intermodal facility in Joliet, IL where standardized shipping containers are available. Ocean-bound products coming from plants and farms outside of Wisconsin are expected to arrive via rail.
Moore and Thompson were part of a lengthy list of politicians and city officials at the groundbreaking ceremony. Port director Adam Tindall-Schlicht served as the event emcee.
“The facility will open Wisconsin’s maritime and agricultural economies to new international markets for this commodity and many others,” said Tindall-Schlicht. Corn and soybeans are also expected to be exported through the facility, according to a February report.
“This is a marriage of the happy family of the city, state, Wisconsin Department of Transportation and federal government,” said Moore. The federal government is contributing $15.89 million via a grant, WisDOT is contributing $6.15 million, the city (via borrowing) is contributing $5.7 million and DeLong is contributing $7 million.
“As we build back better, we must continue to invest in our maritime economy,” said U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin. “Today’s groundbreaking is just the beginning.”
“Milwaukee is the economic engine for our state,” said Governor Tony Evers. But he said for it and the rest of the state to succeed they must be connected. “Folks, when we do connect those dots we are ensuring that every family and every community and every industry has the tools and resources to thrive.”
As they spoke, more than a dozen trucks and a train passed by, a reflection of the already active port. Once the speeches concluded, politicians, port officials and DeLong representatives grabbed gold-painted shovels to ceremonially toss DDGS set up in a trough in front of a DeLong semi-trailer.
DeLong is leasing a 4.42-acre site, 1711 S. Carferry Dr., from the city-owned port and will own the facility built atop it. The company will pay approximately $3.5 million in lease payments over 30 years. If DeLong doesn’t renew its lease, the port will have an option to buy the facility.
According to a DeLong representative, DeLong has hired Michels Corp. to perform site work on the property. The Scharine Group will construct the conveyance systems. Legacy Building Solutions will build the flat storage building.
The new complex will accept deliveries on the east side of S. Carferry Dr. and transfer materials overhead to storage facilities on the harbor side of the street. Those storage buildings include a 19-inlet flat storage building and multiple upright storage silos made of galvanized steel. Disused buildings on the site were demolished earlier this year.
The facility is expected to be fully operational in April 2023.
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