Virtual Fish Tent: Railway


Railway Panel Flood Panel
Dams Panel Lost Habitat Panel
Salmon Lifecycle Restoration – Shifting Priorities
Restoration – A 15 Year Overview Restoration – A Learning Experience

A railway in the river! What a question to ask…

With stolen Eel River water Sonoma County continues to realize an economic boom. Since more gravel is needed to sustain their pace of development will it be on the back of the beleaguered Eel River? What is the real cost ratio of removing gravel from the Eel and transporting it out by rail? Would demand for cheap gravel push mining operations to even higher levels? Are the extensive lobbying efforts of the gravel and logging industries for a railroad subsidy to subsidize their operations at taxpayers expense? What is the economic return for the taxpayers? Can an area already heavily impacted with over 100 years of resource extraction sustain even more of the same environmental impact?

Will a railway that traverses the most geologically unstable area on the earth, along the water’s edge of the main-stem Eel River ever be economically sound? What are the real costs of repair, stabilization, and restructuring 216 miles of railroad tracks? With 115” of rainfall each year and continuous seismic upheaval, plus steep canyon walls with some of the track below the high water mark, is it any wonder that FEMA has said it will cost at least $642,000,000 to rebuild and probably a million a year for upkeep and repairs? And that price is only for a Class 1 designation, which means no passengers. So who is to benefit from the enormous quantity of taxpayers money needed for this reputed most expensive railway in the world?

Did you know that as an owner of the peoples railroad you, via your taxes, will have to pay for repair and removal if the train goes off the track? When closed in 1998 the railroad was in violation of numerous violations of the Fish and Game Code, Health and Safety Code and the Water Code, all meant to protect our Public Trust resources. Is it possible, with the known geological conditions, to not violate these standards?

A healthy economy depends on a healthy environment, not only jobs, but food for future generations depend on this.

The construction of the railroad through the Eel River Canyon was “the beginning of the end of the big salmon runs. By the time this railroad was completed in 1914, a tremendous amount of material had been pushed and blown into the Eel River. A lot of this  Eel River canyon had big landslides. When the rail was built this started the landslides moving. These also were shoved into the river. Then they blew out the falls near Kikawaka. Also, they blew out the big rocks that formed the toe on the Kikawaka slide. This, over a period of years, let a lot of the mountainslide into the river…..It was not many years before the river started to fill in and it wasn’t many years before the ships could no longer run up river as far as Scotia.” (Mathison 1998) “The Eel River has the highest sediment load per unit area of drainage basin of any river in the United States.  This heavy sediment load is due to encroachment on drainages, streams, and rivers by landslides; and because the Franciscan Formation is relatively easily eroded.” (Shannon & Wilson, Inc. [Report on Geotechnical Recommendations for Repair of NWPR, 6/99). In fact, studies have found that the Eel River is one of the highest sediment producing rivers in the world, “carrying fifteen times as much sediment as the notoriously muddy Mississippi, and second only to the 3,000 mile long Yangtze River in China”. Due to these impacts, the Eel River is formally recognized as “impaired” under the federal Clean Water Act [ß303(d)]. The railroad has caused countless embankments to erode away, landslides and other erosion sources, and its reconstruction would cause further damage to a watershed that is already suffering from extreme amounts of sediment pollution. What is the real cost of this continuing?

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