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“The first issue that needs to be addressed will be economic feasibility”

By CERENA JOHNSON, The Eureka Reporter
Published: Sep 12 2008, 11:35 PM · Updated: Sep 13 2008, 1:02 AM

Discussion returned to the future of the railroad at Thursday’s Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District meeting.

North Coast Railroad Authority Chairman Allan Hemphill provided the board with an update on current projects.

Currently, the NCRA is focused on reconstruction of the southern end of the line, with a $70 million reconstruction geared toward signals work, restoration of levees in Shellville and bridge reconstruction, Hemphill said.

As the harbor district has yet to reach a final decision on the Redwood Marine Terminal Project, Hemphill said there is “not much of a place to table” for the NCRA.

Once a decision is reached, Hemphill said, “we are required by staff to respond to that.”

The proposed marine terminal project includes construction of a multipurpose berth and long-term expansion dependent on operation of the railroad.

The way the process is set up, Hemphill said several issues need to be addressed.

“The first issue that needs to be addressed will be economic feasibility,” Hemphill said, along with assessing whether there is a sufficient traffic base.

Hemphill also said environmental issues need to be addressed in order to handle that traffic — in the case of the Eel River canyon, an environmental impact report — and said the question of where funds come from for restoration needs to be answered.

“We’re waiting for something to respond to,” he said.

Two years ago, the NCRA began the process of assessing the cost of fixing the canyon, starting an environmental review process and engaging an engineering company to do photo mapping to determine where problematic areas are, as well as a geo-tech study.

That is now in the final stages, Hemphill said, after which it will be delivered to the NCRA board and made available to the harbor district and public.

“I think it will finally answer some of the questions that have been hanging out there,” Hemphill said.

The harbor district board also continued discussion of the Goldman Sachs negotiations.

“We have not accepted their proposal because it does not cover items the board feel are necessary,” said Commissioner Roy Curless.

Curless said a lot of negotiating remains to be done between the board’s committee and Goldman Sachs.

“They’ve kind of come dead in the water,” Curless said.

The next step will be for Goldman Sachs to come up with a proposal that is accepted by the committee, which the committee would then bring to the board for fine-tuning, he said.

Read the story in the Eureka Reporter >

An important message from David Gurney
David Gurney spoke at last week’s HBHRCD meeting

It is apparent that Humboldt Bay is about to be blindsided by oil and gas development.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has staked claim to a 136 sq. mi. area of ocean right outside the mouth of the Humboldt Bay. They also have permits for 68 square miles off the Mendocino Coast, and are apparently in negotiation with the Minerals Management Service to lease even more large tracts of ocean, just outside of these huge areas. These tracts correspond to offshore oil drilling zones, that were under negotiation for Oil and Gas Lease/Sale # 91 back in 1988.

PG&E does not need such huge areas of ocean to test wave energy devices, and instead has the potential to “site sit” these locations, until such a time that the leases can be converted to natural gas and oil drilling permits. It says so in their permit documents.

Also documented is the fact that P.G.& E. has approached as two companies as consultants on their wave energy projects : Black & Veatch and CH2M Hill. Both are world-wide conglomerates engaged in natural gas and oil development.

Furthermore, Goldman Sachs has offered to lease and develop the marine terminal of Humboldt Bay, supposedly for the benefit of commerce and tourism. But Goldman Sachs is heavily involved in speculation on oil futures, and is in fact one of the major players in such speculation, and thus could have a serious conflict of interest in what is best for the Bay and the citizens of Eureka.

I believe that Goldman Sachs, along with PG&E and their consultants have the potential to turn Humboldt Bay into a scene similar to Martinez in the East Bay, with refineries, natural gas processing facilities, cogeneration plants and storage tanks, not to mention tanker traffic. Read the rest of this entry »

“It does seem odd that they are effectively teeing up assets for their corporate clients to buy,” he says. “In most situations, that wouldn’t be deemed ethical.” John Foote, the Kennedy School fellow, also suggests that Goldman Sachs has “some decisions to make. People don’t want them playing on both sides of the fence.”

“THE ROAD IS ONE SUCCESSION OF DUST, RUTS, PITS, AND HOLES.”So wrote Dwight D. Eisenhower, then a young lieutenant colonel, in November 1919, after heading out on a cross-country trip with a convoy of Army vehicles in order to test the viability of the nation’s highways in case of a military emergency. To this description of one major road across the west, Eisenhower added reports of impassable mud, unstable sand, and wooden bridges that cracked beneath the weight of the trucks. In Illinois, the convoy “started on dirt roads, and practically no more pavement was encountered until reaching California.”

It took 62 days for the trucks to make the trip from Washington, D.C., to San Francisco, and another 37 years for Ike to complete a quest, inspired by this youthful journey and by his World War II observations of Germany’s autobahns, to build a national road system for the United States. In 1956, President Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act, which called for the federal and state governments to build 41,000 miles of high-quality roads across the nation, over rivers and gorges, swamps and deserts, over and through vast mountain ranges, in what would later be called the “greatest public works project in human history.” So vital to the public interest did Eisenhower, an old-style fiscal conservative, consider the interstate highway system, he even authorized the federal government to assume 90 percent of the massive cost.

Fifty years to the day after Ike put his pen to the Highway Act, another Republican signed off on another historic highway project. On June 29, 2006, Mitch Daniels, the former Bush administration official turned governor of Indiana, was greeted with a round of applause as he stepped into a conference room packed with reporters and state lawmakers. The last of eight wire transfers had landed in the state’s account, making it official: Indiana had received $3.8 billion from a foreign consortium made up of the Spanish construction firm Cintra and the Macquarie Infrastructure Group (MIG) of Australia, and in exchange the state would hand over operation of the 157-mile Indiana Toll Road for the next 75 years. The arrangement would yield hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks for the consortium, which also received immunity from most local and state taxes in its contract with Indiana. And, of course, the consortium would collect all the tolls, which it was allowed to raise to levels far beyond what Hoosiers had been used to. By one calculation, the Toll Road would generate more than $11 billion over the 75-year life of the contract, a nice return on MIG-Cintra’s $3.8 billion investment.

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