The Northwest Pacific Railroad was the first and only railroad to be officially closed by the Federal Railroad Authority. At the time of closure in 1998, the railroad contained more than 208 damaged areas along the 216 miles of track and was within numerous violations of the Fish and Game Code, Health and Safety Code and the Water Code, all meant to protect our Public Trust resources.
The cost of stabilizing the damaged areas to a Class 1 designation(no passengers) has been estimated to be $642,000,000 by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Maintenance and repairs could be around a million dollars a year for a railroad running along the waters edge of the main-stem Wild and Scenic Eel River, a seismically active and geologically unstable area. As owners of the peoples railroad, California taxpayers will be responsible for these maintenance and repair costs.
The North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA) intends to restore the railroad with the initial focus being on opening operable blocks in the South from the interchange at Lombard, traveling north to Willits. Environmental Consent Decree (ECD) issues are being delayed until there is reasonable rail improvement.
The NCRA 2006 Strategic Plan and Progress Report states: “The California Transportation Commission (CTC) has previously asked NCRA to report on its ability to comply with the ECD if the rail is not extended through the Canyon. As stated above, it is NCRA’s intent to eventually open the entire line and thereby address the ECD issues. However, if the rail was not extended through the Canyon, it would be doubtful that NCRA would ever have the financial means to address the ECD through the canyon area.”
Friends of the Eel River are very concerned about the health and potential recovery of the Eel river and have been following the railroad saga for many years because of it’s past and potential future impacts to the river. We have tried very hard to maintain a neutral stance so we could evaluate various proposals for repair or removal of the railroad. In the process we are uncovering major holes in the statements being put forth by the NCRA. In their recent press release it sounded like the railroad was a soundly put together project, funded and engineered and would be soon roaring down the track. Nothing could be further from the truth. The operator chosen by the NCRA Board in order to release government funding is in the process of being put together as a Limited Liability Corporation, L.L.C. and is not completed yet to my knowledge. The company wanting to reopen the hard rock mine at Island Mountain, in the heart of the main stem Eel River canyon, has not even completed their permitting request from the Planning Department in Trinity County, since that twelve mile section is in that county. The mine will have to go through various environmental reports which take money and time. It appears that the operation of this entire railway line is contingent on the mine being successfully permitted as it is promised to produce about a million dollars or so for the rail line. The port of Humboldt is a long way from becoming an international port with container shipments to be further moved via the railroad. This project is proposed to be a public private joint venture and is being supported (pushed) by Democrates and justified with ignorant statements like ” it is better we repair the railroad because it is better to fix it than let it fall into the river.” Yes, there are miles of railroad ties bleeding toxins along the way which can be easily removed along with the tracks that would not create new disturbances. So far no one has come along with a feasible plan to restore the tracks through that section of the river canyon in a transparent environmentally sound manner. There will be a public hearing at the California Transit Commission (CTC) on October 11 and 12, 2006 some where in Santa Rosa. We will post the meeting place as soon as we receive that information. Our current question is “Is this just another run on taxpayers’ money?”
Train Mine Numbers
- The Island Mountain Mine report and the 2006 NCRA Strategic Plan estimate 6,000,000 tons will be mined from the quarry every year.
- This will produce approximately 2,400,000 cubic yards of crushed rock per year.
- It is assumed that a single rail car can transport 100 yards of material, a train is limited 25 cars due to the weight, and that trains operate 260 days a year (weekdays).
This would produce approximately 10 trains a day during days of operation (outbound and return).
- In addition, the 2006 NCRA Strategic Plan estimates up to 1000 containers a day moved to and from the port of Humboldt Bay.
- Assuming 50 double stacked cars per train this would be an additional 10 trains per day.
- These two rail uses potentially add up to 20 trains a day.
- This is 20 times the number of trains estimated to move local goods (i.e. lumber) and garbage which could be as many one train a day.
(Links open in a new window. Close to return to Friends of the Eel River.)
If you only read one article about the NCRA – make it this one:
Off the Tracks
Upfront: Train Spatting – Meyers to NCRA: This is no way to run a railroad – By: Peter Seidman, Published in the Pacific Sun October 31, 2013
Marin County Attorney Bernie Meyers left the NCRA Board of Directors in October, 2013 and left the public a wealth of information on the failures of this public institution. Read the North Coast Journal coverage below.
NCRA Director Gives Agency a Withering Indictment on his Way Out the Door – October 10, 2013
Our legal battle to ensure that the NCRA follow state environmental law continues as we appeal the decision that they are free to trash the tax-payer funded and already completed environmental impact report and operate outside California law.
Alex Stillman was appointed to the NCRA Board in May, 2013 and controversy ensued.
North Coast Journal coverage
Lost Coast Outpost coverage
- Your Semi-Regular Wonderful World of Local Trains Update – July 16, 2013
- Lost Coast Outpost Interviews Alex Stillman – June 25, 2013
- Railheads Seek Stillman Ouster from NCRA Board – June 17 , 2013
Richard Marks Appointed to NCRA Board – June 4, 2013
Disappearing Railroad Blues By: Ryan Burns, Published in the North Coast Journal May 16, 2013
Off The Tracks – May 14, 2013
The North Coast Railroad Authority Goes Rogue – April 2013
CEQA Key to Holding Railroad Authority Accountable – February 2013
North Coast Railroad Director: Lets Stop Pouring Money Down a Black Hole – By: Bernie Meyers, Published in the Lost Coast Outpost September 28, 2012
Why the North Coast Railroad Authority Needs Help in its Lease Negotiations – By: Bernie Meyers, Published in the Lost Coast Outpost April 9, 2012
North Coast Railroad Authority: ‘We Don’t Have to Follow Your Laws’ – By: Hank Sims, Published in the Lost Coast Outpost September 2, 2011
2009 and earlier
Fix Pollution or Else-April-2009 – Attorney General says NCRA must deal with underground problems or face delay in resumption of service
NCRA-Ten Terrible Truths– EPIC
From the 2006 CAL Trans audit of the NCRA reported in 2007 (HIGH RISK STATUS)
Freight trains raise ruckus in Novato By: Rob Rogers, Published in the Marin Independent Journal July 9, 2007
In the News
Dear Editor, I submit the following letter in response to a recent IJ Editorial. (November 1, 2008)
NCRA Freight Settlement
The IJ editorial, “Novato council shouldn’t derail freight settlement,” reflects a lack of understanding of the depth of destruction that the NCRA is planning on the Eel River. In order to enable freight to become a money making enterprise, NCRA plans to mine Island Mountain Quarry on the Eel River. NCRA would ship about 6 million tons of gravel each year from this quarry if allowed to operate. It would be the largest open pit mine on any wild & scenic river in the US. The Eel river canyon is subject to floods, landslides, earth quakes and has proved to be an engineering nightmare for the railroad’s previous owner. They spent a million dollars each month maintaining track there. Salmon, bald eagles and other endangered species would be harmed by starting up freight. I recently flew over the quarry and filmed it and about 20 miles of the beautiful river.
The issue with Novato’s City Council is not irresponsibility in spending money on its lawsuit against NCRA, it’s an issue of the irresponsibility of allowing this unprecedented destruction on the Eel River to proceed. About 30 rail cars would be needed each day to haul all that gravel, through Novato. —John Parulis
Video of Novato City Council Meeting July 19, 2007 – Novato City Council receives public input about proposed resumption of freight train service
A railway in the River, what questions to ask, excerpt from FOER’s virtual fishtent
Contact the Northern California FEMA Regional Environmental Officer
Regional Environmental Officer
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Building 105, P.O.B. 29998
Presidio of San Francisco
San Francisco, California 94129-1250