Capdiamont\’s Weblog

Marin County Judge Lays Smack Down on NCRA Opponents

Santa Rosa Press Democrat: Judge to dismiss suit against North Coast rail service

Environmental groups cannot use state law to block the resumption of freight rail service on the North Coast, a Marin County judge tentatively ruled Tuesday.

Judge Roy O. Chernus said that federal law preempts state law in matters relating to railroads, so environmental groups could not sue the North Coast Railroad Authority over deficiencies in an environmental impact report that it prepared under state law using state money.

The state law “mandates a time-consuming review which may result in indefinite delays and unduly interfere with exclusive federal jurisdiction over rail transportation” by giving local officials power to block operations on environmental grounds, the judge wrote.

Ouch! This is what I have said for a long time. This also calls in to question Novato’s lawsuit and settlement. Maybe NCRA can get some money back from that city and the county of Marin.

Watch soon for Hank Sims to write another rant against the railroad and bearing his teeth. The troll or trolls will do the same with the comments on here.

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Railbanking/Rails to Trails suffers major setback in court rooms
Sunday 19 Feb 2012, 01:33
Filed under: Humboldt, Mendocino, Railroad, trails

Sixteen court cases have all decided converting railroads in to trails is an unconstitutional taking of land. When the easements were granted, land owners never granted an easement to make a trail. Each court case pointed out a trail is not a railroad. That means in order to make a trail, the land owners must receive fair market value for the new easement. Expect millions of dollars to be added to the cost of trails.


SRPD: Legal fight over North Coast freight trains shifts to federal court
Thursday 1 Sep 2011, 09:02
Filed under: Marin, Mendocino, NCRA, Northwestern Pacific Railroad, Railroad, Sonoma

Two lawsuits challenging freight service on the Northwestern Pacific Railroad have shifted to federal court, in a legal maneuver by the North Coast Railroad Authority.

The move could make it easier for the rail authority to defend the cargo trains, which returned to Sonoma, Napa and Marin counties in July after a 10-year absence.

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NCRA releases environmental report on freight service |
Wednesday 11 May 2011, 09:23
Filed under: Marin, Mendocino, NCRA, Northwestern Pacific Railroad, Railroad, Sonoma

NCRA releases environmental report on freight service |

The North Coast Rail Authority on Wednesday took another step toward resurrecting freight service in Napa, Sonoma, Marin and Mendocino counties by releasing a final environmental impact report.

Link to report.

SRPD: NCRA shelves Rail to Trail resolution
Thursday 14 Apr 2011, 08:14
Filed under: Humboldt, Mendocino, NCRA, Northwestern Pacific Railroad, Railroad


But some Eel River ranchers are skeptical of the idea, saying they already have problems with poachers, marijuana growers and other trespassers.

“We will fight you on this,” said Peggy Satterlee, whose family owns a 28,000-acre ranch in the canyon near Fort Seward.

“We don’t want the dogs, the horses and the fires,” she said.


NCRA Chairman defends lease with NWP Co.
Friday 8 Apr 2011, 07:03
Filed under: Humboldt, Marin, Mendocino, NCRA, Northwestern Pacific Railroad, Railroad, Sonoma

A MARCH 24 Marin Voice column, “Lopsided freight train lease,” [and other papers] by North Coast Railroad Authority board member Bernie Meyers is a “lopsided” opinion. Meyers does not speak for the board.

We invite the public to view his insinuations and compare them with the facts about the NCRA process and operator contract as detailed below.

The NCRA entered into a lease agreement with North Western Pacific Co. in 2006. A board member may disagree with the terms of that operator agreement, but it is wrong to suggest that the process took place behind closed doors.

The NCRA used a request-for-proposals process, which was widely publicized, and the selection of the operator was accomplished at a public meeting in May 2006.

That selection was subject to negotiation of a contract, which came back before the board in an open meeting in September 2006.

The “fairness” of the contract has to be viewed at the time of its making, not through the lens of subsequent events.

At the time the contract was signed:

• The railroad had been closed down for eight years.

• The California Transportation Commission had stated it would not allocate any Transportation Congestion Relief Program funds to the NCRA.

• The NCRA had a pending $10 million claim from its previous Operator, which had to be resolved before any third party, such as NWP, could operate.

• The Union Pacific had said they would never do business with the NWP (the former operator) railroad again.

• NCRA did not even have enough resources to pay its staff.

This was the situation when the agreement was signed. Most of the other short-line railroads solicited did not even respond. Rail America stated that it was not interested under any circumstances.

Against this challenging and pessimistic backdrop, NWP agreed to:

• Assume the common carrier obligation.

• Support NCRA staff at the rate of $20,000 per month, without knowing whether the railroad would ever reopen.

• Risk up to $4 million cash of its capital to fund the TCRP project, with little security in the event of project failure, and knowing that Caltrans might disallow some or all of the costs.

In addition, when contractors who were hired to get the railroad open failed, NWP risked an additional $2 million to get the job done.

NWP has brought credibility to this railroad through its commitment, competence and capital.

NWP and John Williams have risked much to bring an operating railroad to the public, a facility that has great value to present and future generations of citizens and businesses.

Nobody else offered to take the risks that Williams did and without those risks being taken, NCRA meetings would be nothing more than dream sessions, wishfully looking forward to the day when rail service might be restored.

The only price NWP asked in return for taking 100 percent of the risk was to be reimbursed for the cost of money spent for the NCRA.

We hear a lot these days about public/private partnerships and the NCRA board is blessed with some tenacious directors.

Bernie is one of them.

But to give credit where credit is due, the NCRA had little hope of success without the unswerving faith and full credit of its private partner, NWP and John Williams.

Former Mendocino County Supervisor Hal Wagenet is chariman of the North Coast Railroad Authority, which plans to run freight trains on tracks that cross Novato.

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The $400 million Eel River trail

Madrone estimates the trail would cost between $300 million and $400 million to build

That is a quote from the trail adviser, unlike Sims who used any person from the audience.

A railroad easement is there until the railroad is abandoned. It doesn’t matter if the line has been inactive for twenty-five years or more.

The railroad is not required to use creosoted wood. Other alternatives are concrete, steel, plastic, rubber, and other wood resistant to rot.

We rail advocates understand it will be a long hard path.

With  ever increasing fuel costs, there is a rising need for the railroad. The railroad can haul one ton of freight for an average of 426 miles on one gallon of fuel. A truck on the other hand hauls one ton of freight for about an average of 118 miles on one gallon of fuel. With rising tensions and population around the world, do we really want to be stuck with a less efficient transportation?

Security is of paramount importance, so ERTA promotes use of technology here. A “trail card” system with solar-powdered automated trail stations could be located at all of the approx. 15 main ERT access points from paved roads. The cards could have a proximity sensor function, so that if someone gets lost, we would know which section they last passed through. It is much easier to search 5 or10 miles than it is 162 miles. All trail users could be required to provide next of kin contacts and planned date of arrival at a given access point. There could be different types of trail cards, like single or multiple day-use as well as annual or lifetime passes, for locals or frequent users.

How many people do they really think is going to pay for trail use? Enough for $400 million in costs, not to mention maintenance costs? Does he really think anyone will use this security card, let alone MJ Growers? I’m sure DEA will not subpena the records.

BTW, NCRA said the rails, etc is theirs, and will be used for the rest of the system if this is railbanked. So if you are counting on $400 million from scrapping the relatively small amount, forget it. Also the scrap won’t even add up to what they need.

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