Destroyed railway bridge impacting agricultural shipments between Benton, Yakima counties


PROSSER, Wash. – The State of Washington is requesting a Disaster Declaration as industries are suffering from the consequences of September’s wildfires.

One piece of critical infrastructure which was destroyed was a railroad bridge over the Yakima River in the Prosser area, which was consumed by fire on September 7.

With the loss of the bridge, many industries are feeling the impact because the railway was used to ship agricultural products between Benton and Yakima counties. According to the Washington State Short Line Railroad Coalition:

“In particular, this vital rail trestle/bridge is used to haul all kinds of freight from/to Yakima and Benton counties, and impacts many shippers in three port districts (Port of Sunnyside, Port of Grandview and Port of Benton), several central WA communities (Prosser, Grandview, Sunnyside, Granger, etc.) and about 3,600 rail carloads (~14,500 truckload equivalents) of shipments annually.  Products and cargo that are shipped over this rail trestle/bridge serve many industries in the area, including the dairy industry, the hop industry, the grape industry, feed for many livestock operations, as well many other agricultural and food growing, processing and/or shipping operations.”

In a letter addressed to FEMA, Governor Inslee in part wrote:

“I request that you declare a major disaster for the State of Washington as a result of severe drought and the extensive damages incurred by extreme fire behavior and straight-line winds beginning september 1 through september 19, 2020…in Benton County, a nearly 100-year-old railroad bridge was fully engulfed in flames and destroyed by one of the many rapidly moving wildfires. Firefighters were focused on saving lives and people’s homes and were not able to save the structure…which spanned the Yakima River. The historic bridge was used as a critical transportation corridor to ship agricultural products in the region.”

Legislators hope a Disaster Declaration could help mitigate the financial hardships this loss has caused for local industries.