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Published July 12, 2011, 08:24 AM

SunPrairie sets sights on flood recovery

FARGO, N.D. — The largest grain elevator complex in the Minot, N.D., area is flooded but scrambling to get ready for a winter wheat harvest that could start three weeks from now.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

FARGO, N.D. — The largest grain elevator complex in the Minot, N.D., area is flooded but scrambling to get ready for a winter wheat harvest that could start three weeks from now.

The company’s flagship headquarters is one three of three facilities in Minot that still are standing in water. Minot also is the headquarters for seven satellite facilities in the area, including Velva, N.D., which avoided getting wet.

“Fortunately, with the late-seeded crop, we might have a little more time for the rest,” says Brad Haugeberg, who is general manager of CHS SunPrairie Grain. “With 30 percent of the acres planted in our trade area, we can’t afford to miss one single (harvested) bushel.”

The “spring and summer from hell” may have a long recovery period, he says.

“Our biggest concern is to restore rail service out of the two facilities we’re using,” Haugeberg says. Canadian Pacific Railway is the primary service provider from those facilities and has “a lot of track that’s literally gone —washed away by the river. They’re in the process of getting tracks put together.”

The water had just receded enough by July 8 so SunPrairie workers could start assessing damage and start pumping water out of the lower areas of the plant, Haugeberg says.

“We have a lot of electrical issues that have to be resolved,” he says. Motors can be taken to a Mandan, N.D., company to be baked dry and the bearings changed and tested.

Here is a rundown of what has been affected at SunPrairie Grain:

n Headquarters and a main plant includes 1.5 million bushels of concrete storage and 1.5 million bushels of steel in two bins. Last year, one of the steel bins had collapsed and had just been replaced, Haugeberg notes. This plant is designed mostly for the region’s significant wheat crop. This and the office structure took on about 5 feet of water. “the water came within an inch of getting to the main office floors,” Haugeberg says. “The lower offices will have to be renovated.”

Some grain was placed in overhead bins, the rest was hauled to two separate former Cargill facilities, acquired in 2002, which together hold a total 1.5 million bushels, across the Canadian Pacific Railway switchyard to the south and about 10 feet higher than the headquarters.

n Certified seed plant: This is just north of the main office/elevator complex and is the company’s primary warehouse for bagged seed. The company has three seed cleaning lines, with lots of separations for cereal grains.

“We were able to move the bagged seed,” Haugeberg says, but adds that, unfortunately —with only 30 percent of the acres seeded in the trade area — there are “millions and millions of dollars worth of seed” that had to be moved.

n Downtown facility: This was the company’s main plant until the 1970s and normally holds some 450,000 bushels of storage. About 50,000 bushels of sunflowers were moved to overhead bins before flooding. The concrete facility primarily is used for canola and sunflowers, and birdseed conditioning.

“We haven’t been able to get to that one, so I can’t tell you how deep it is,” he says.

Employees are working out of the two former Cargill facilities.

“They’re sitting on top of each other, conducting business,” he says.

Phone service has not resumed, so employees are working with cell phones iPads and 3G AirCards.

July is a month when many employees typically take vacation.

“When we get back into these facilities, it’s going to be all hands on deck,” he says.

Haugeberg says the company has about 100 employees, of which 60 are in Minot. Of those, 15 were evacuated and 12 have homes that sustained moderate to severe flood damage. Haugeberg’s own home has about 8 feet of water in it.

“I don’t know what the status of it is; maybe next week I might be able to see it,” he says.

Some 4,100 homes were damaged and some 3,100 likely won’t be inhabitable by fall, if at all.

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