- Associated Press - Friday, August 14, 2015

LITTLE FALLS, Minn. (AP) - More than 17,000 police officers, firefighters and other emergency responders already visit Camp Ripley in central Minnesota each year to train for disaster scenarios.

Now Camp Ripley officials and the state Department of Public Safety are asking state legislators for $3.1 million in bonding money to build a regional facility that would help emergency workers prepare for oil train derailment and pipeline disasters at the military base in Little Falls, the St. Cloud Times (http://on.sctimes.com/1NuxTQB ) reported.

The 53,000-acre camp is the perfect place to train for such disasters because of its central location, ample space and state-of the-art training facilities, according to Camp Ripley officials. The base also makes sense as a location for the training facility, officials argue, because it houses numerous agencies for training, including the State Patrol, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.

Every day, seven trains carrying 23 million gallons of Bakken crude oil cross through Minnesota, along rail routes where about 3.5 million people live, said Maj. Joseph Sanganoo. The state also hosts about 65,000 miles of pipeline that carry natural gas, ethanol and other hazardous materials, he said.

“Should a catastrophic … incident take place, as in an oil train derailment, that could cause significant impact to the environment and could certainly impact a lot of lives,” Sanganoo said.

Camp Ripley currently has one rail car on about 50 feet of rail for training purposes, but base officials would like to expand the rail line to about 2 miles to make the training site more realistic. The military facility is hoping to bring in some rail cars, tip them over and have the emergency responders use chemicals and equipment that they would use in a real-life oil derailment and fire, Sanganoo said.

“With 2 miles of rail we have the capability of really bringing the realism to it,” he said.

The camp would work with the BNSF Railway company to acquire to correct type of rail car and could even add fire so firefighters are able to respond in a controlled situation, said Col. Scott St. Sauver, garrison commander at Camp Ripley.

“We want to put them in the most stressful situation that we can,” he said. “If you don’t train them in the worst of the worst, how do they know what they’re going into? We owe them that.”

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Information from: St. Cloud Times, http://www.sctimes.com

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