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Marin Supervisor: If the railroad authority did an EIR, the county would drop its lawsuit
Wednesday 20 Feb 2008, 07:39
Filed under: NCRA, Railroad

You actually have three topics in one. Posted on the Novato Advance.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008 2:36 PM PST

Supervisor Judy Arnold

I am delighted to announce my new supervisor aide, Carolyn Glendening from Novato. As many of you remember, Carolyn was one of the founders of the Novato Healthy Food Coalition that helped bring Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods to Novato. Carolyn joins my other aide, Tanya Maxwell, and both are ready to help you on any county issue or problem you have. You can reach them at Carolyn 499-7395; Tanya 499-7371.

There have been numerous articles and columns in the press recently regarding the North Coast Railroad Authority, the city of Novato’s lawsuit and the county of Marin’s participation as an amicus, or friend of the court, to Novato.

The county of Marin joined Novato as an amicus in the lawsuit on one point and only one point: The NCRA cannot segment their Environmental Impact Review of the entire project. CEQA law states very clearly that a public agency must consider the environmental impacts of the whole of the project. NCRA Board members have stated often that the residents of Humboldt cannot create a trail around Humboldt Bay because the NCRA has committed itself both to the state and the Humboldt Bay Harbor District that it intends to restart freight service to Eureka by 2011 to serve a proposed container port in Arcata Bay.

Similarly, the rail operator, NWP, has also claimed in its “business plan” submitted to the California Transportation Commission in October, 2006 that they want to mine gravel at Island Mountain near the Eel River. That alone is the basis of the county’s involvement in the lawsuit against the NCRA.

If the NCRA said tomorrow that it would do an EIR on all the upgrade work on the tracks and all possible freight operations along the rail line, the county’s objection and the lawsuit would go away. Our primary argument is that they cannot segment the repair/upgrade work from the operations since they are all part of the same overall project.

Novato deserves to know what the full impact of freight running through town will be. Two years ago, NCRA said the full impact would be four freight trains a week. Last year, with a new operator, the NWP, they said 32 trains a week, some 60 cars long. We deserve to know what the impact will be with the addition of gravel operations and a deep-water container port.

I would also like to mention one more charge that has been leveled at the city of Novato, which I represent: that charge claims taxpayer dollars are being wasted in this lawsuit. I am a great friend of business and have supported new businesses that increase Novato’s coffers. The money the city has spent on their lawsuit is a pittance compared to the public money the NCRA has spent using taxpayer dollars through transportation bond money and federal and state grants with no business plan or EIR that details their operations and expenditures.

The NCRA’s recent estimate is that it will spend $500 million in public funds to repair and reopen the line to Humboldt. That does not account for environmental consequences of reopening the line through the Eel River.

This is no way to run a business or to use taxpayer dollars. Gov. Schwarzenegger observed this and vetoed a bill that would have given the NCRA millions more this year. The Governor noted that he did not support using public money for private businesses.

Freight operations make good economic sense in most corridors in the United States. However past operations in the challenging North Coast terrain have proven to be economically unfeasible for all private operators. The current private operator John Williams of the NWP recently stated: “There is not enough traffic potential to justify private investment, but public money could allow adequate operations of the railroad.” (Eureka-Times Standard, Jan. 8, 2008)

NCRA and NWP need to produce a complete business plan that shows revenue and expenditures, and they need to do a complete EIR on their plans from Eureka to Napa. They need to do this for the public whose dollars they are spending.

I am very proud to partner with the Novato Police Department in continuing funding through 2008 for a program that provides awareness education to the youth in the community, enforcement and merchant training on youth access to alcohol. This program includes compliance checks conducted in at least 90 percent of on- and off-premise alcohol outlets within the city of Novato, and targets third-party suppliers through a shoulder tap program, alcohol outlet parking lot surveillance and private resident party enforcements.

We must promote a cultural shift in understanding and acceptance of underage drinking so that public acceptance is reduced, and I am very happy to help.

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[…] Supervisor: If the railroad authority did an EIR, the county … Zach Arnold wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptThere have been numerous articles and […]

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