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ER: Harbor District to stay the course on port-rail grant for now
Sunday 16 Mar 2008, 08:31
Filed under: NCRA, Railroad | Tags:

By NATHAN RUSHTON, The Eureka Reporter
Published: Mar 14 2008, 10:38 PM · Updated: Mar 14 2008, 11:41 PM
Category: Local News
Topic: Harbor District“It’s not over until it’s over” is the feeling expressed by Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District officials who received a setback this week in their efforts to secure state money to fix the dangerous sand build-up at the bay’s entrance.

Reacting to a state transportations agency’s recommendation Thursday not to fund a joint port-rail project, the Harbor District board of commissioners took up an unscheduled discussion during its meeting Thursday night to plan a strategy as to how to persuade the California Transportation Commission to reconsider funding the project.

During meetings in Sacramento this week to review billions in statewide Proposition 1B grants proposals, the CTC’s staff recommended the denial of the $19 million in funding for the Harbor District and North Coast Railroad Authority’s joint project during the first round of competitive grant process.

The joint grant application for the Trade Corridor Improvement Fund aims to fix dangerous shoaling at the bay’s entrance and to repair the NCRA’s railroad tracks from South Fork to Humboldt Bay.

According to CTC staff reports, the application implementing agency was unclear, its air quality impacts needed more analysis and the required matching funds were not identified.

The staff report also recommended that the projects should have been separated.

After undertaking a rare procedural move to add the unscheduled matter to the agenda for discussion during its meeting, the board approved unanimously to give Harbor District’s Chief Executive Officer David Hull the leeway to do what was needed to ensure the grant proposal gets approved.

But whether the joint application should be tweaked, drastically changed or altered to split separate projects to address the identified shortcomings is something Hull said he would have to figure out in the upcoming days after talking with CTC staff.

“I won’t know until I start rooting around,” Hull said.

While he said it won’t be easy, Hull said now is the negotiating period with the CTC.

An NCRA official said Wednesday the railroad agency would support splitting the projects if needed.

Commissioner Mike Wilson, who initiated the emergency agenda item, stressed that he wanted Hull to do what it took to make sure the Harbor District’s portion of the proposal to address the dire shoaling problem that fishermen and other vessels was approved.

“I believe our fiduciary duty is to the (Harbor) District,” Wilson said.

The CTC is scheduled to consider the grant proposals again in April.

In more positive news, Hull reported that the Harbor District did receive a more than $500,000 Proposition 1B grant for improvements to security in the port.

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