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Coal trucks to stop rolling through Mercer County

 By Brian Gehring

Highway 200A between Beulah and the Missouri River should be less congested starting today.

For most of January, a fleet of 50 dump trucks owned by Northern Improvement has been hauling lignite coal to Basin Electric Power Cooperative’s LeLand Olds stations near Stanton.

Curt Person, spokesman for Basin Electric, said the 250 loads of coal a day for the past month has helped the plant stockpile 300,000 tons of lignite.

He said the trucks will stop rolling today.

The need to truck the coal some 35 miles from the Coteau Mine north of Beulah was brought about, in part, by a busier BNSF Railway.

He said Basin had a short two-hour window to fill two 60-car coal trains needed to make electricity when it is burned at the plant.

A new oil transloading station near Zap meant BNSF didn’t have enough crews available to move the coal at times.

“The railroad has been responsive to our needs,” Pearson said, and has committed to a putting on third crew to handle deliveries.

“Basically, we’ve been doing this a month,” he said. While still getting rail shipments of lignite, the trucks helped supplement supplies, he said.

Pearson said the need for lignite is higher this time of the year for a couple of reasons. There is a higher demand for electricity during the winter and because of the moisture content of lignite, 15-18 percent of the load sticks to the side of the coal cars and can’t be unloaded.

Mercer County Sheriff Dean Danzeisen said other than one incident when a truck tipped over near the mine, there have been no major issues.

“There has been more traffic, but I haven’t had many, if any complaints at all,” he said.

“The fact that it’s winter and things are frozen helped. The extra traffic hasn’t damaged the roadway.”

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