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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 >

RAPIT forum.
I am for all Port and Rail development. I want a vibrant well organized Port with Rail plans. 

But……

Robin and I went to the RAPIT meeting tonight. It was a one sided forum that needed a more consistent agenda. There were lot’s off the wall commentary and disorganization. Obviously someone was making a play on the environment by handing out “green” support cards to be sent to the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District Commissioners. Robin was disturbed by the postcard saying “I support environmentally responsible development. Let’s make ours the first GREEN port and railroad in America.” She felt it was bold statement with no back-up information to back up this. What qualifies this statement? What makes our potential developed bay green, and what makes other ports not green. If that is the case, why did they skirt around the question of erosion during dredging and release of ballast organism. And where on the card is the mention of the RAPIT forum? Bill Bertain said RAPIT is a task force? Are they? And who is the ptyson@portofhumboldtbay.org. on the front of the card?

Bill Bertain was the moderator for this forum, with a bias. Made the comment it would take 72 million in 1998 dollars to revitalize the railroad. May be more in now dollars. I think Bill is a great guy, but he needed to stay on task. If you have not been part of this process, I can see where you could get lost. Read the rest of this entry »

“NCRA has become, instead, a pretend railroad, existing primarily to garner federal and state funds as those involved, including Hauser during his brief tenure as NCRA’s chief executive, insist that an operating railroad will emerge someday.”

Dan Walters: An example of why state Legislature is a dysfunctional mess
By Dan Walters — Bee Columnist
Published 2:15 am PDT Monday, June 27, 2005

When Arnold Schwarzenegger says the Legislature is insular, ineffective and beholden to special interests, he’s absolutely correct.

Senate Bill 792 is a perfect microcosm of legislators’ utter disconnection from reality and common sense, and their penchant for wasting their time and our money on favors and trivia.

Briefly, SB 792 would let an obscure entity called the North Coast Railroad Authority use $5.5 million in state funds, originally set aside to repay a federal loan, for operational purposes. But to understand its utter absurdity, one needs some history.

For 70 years, beginning in 1914, the Northwestern Pacific Railroad, a subsidiary of the Southern Pacific Railroad, operated a 300-mile-long line connecting the San Francisco Bay Area with Eureka, mostly carrying lumber. But NWP was a very expensive line to maintain because much of its track paralleled the Eel River, subject to damage from heavy winter rains and the region’s notoriously unstable geology. As freight business declined, Southern Pacific finally concluded that the NWP was a loser and in the 1980s, sought to shut it down. A private company was formed to buy it in the mid-1980s, but it went bankrupt two years later.

A local assemblyman, Dan Hauser, persuaded the Legislature to create the North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA) in 1989 to take over the northern portion of the line, contending that public ownership could make it viable. But NCRA experienced exactly the same problems that previous owners had seen. Seven years ago, federal officials shut down the railroad for poor maintenance. Ever since, its roadbed has continued to erode, its tracks have continued to rust and it has not functioned as a railroad in any rational sense. Nor could it function, any objective appraisal would easily conclude. Read the rest of this entry »

“The North Coast Railroad Authority has been engaged in an epic courtroom battle with the City of Novato over whether NCRA is obligated to produce an environmental impact report on work to rehabilitate the rail line.”

More on NCRA lawsuit
Willits News 

By Mike A’Dair/TWN Staff Writer

Since last September, the North Coast Railroad Authority has been engaged in an epic courtroom battle with the City of Novato over whether NCRA is obligated to produce an environmental impact report on work to rehabilitate the rail line.

The agency also is challenging the legality of a September 28, 2007, lawsuit filed by Novato against NCRA.

According to NCRA, the lawsuit was filed more than 35 days after the rail authority had approved the project. Although the rail line has stated the project was approved by the NCRA board of directors on August 16, 2006, and by the California Transportation Commission in March 2007, when $1.5 million was released to the NCRA to begin repairs on the rail line, Marin County Superior Court Judge James Ritchie has ruled board approval does not constitute final approval of the project.

Instead, Ritchie ruled a project is approved by an administrative body when that body has negotiated and signed a contract for the work to be done. Under that interpretation, Novato’s September 28, 2007, lawsuit did not exceed the statute of limitations.

Read the rest of this entry »