Friday, March 29, 2013

Happy Easter and City of Eureka votes to apply for funding for East/West Railroad Feasability Study.

Went to todays “Special Meeting” of the Eureka City Council about sending a resolution to Cal Trans and apply for a grant in the amount of $295,000 for an east/west rail feasibility study. City of Eureka Consultant David Hull gave a presentation to the Council and said they were under a time crunch and needed to file the necessary paperwork by a April 2nd deadline. City staff was contributing $17,500 as a cash support or “match” for their time provided. Newly formed Organization Land Bridge Alliance would be kicking in $35,000 as a matchinf fund themselves. David felt a “Privately” financed only would fail with garnering permits in the future and that is why “Public” funding was being solicited.
Councilperson Linda Atkins wanted to know why there was such an emergency for this funding and felt it was inappropriate to call a special meeting on “Good Friday.” She felt there was a need for more public input and pointed out the funding would not be available until 2014 anyways.
The Public was invited to speak after other councilmembers spoke briefly of their support to the resolution:
Loraine Parnell- Why the special meeting? Was the Consultant to blame for short notice?
Pete Oringer- Member of the Timber Heritage Association and Land Bridge Alliance felt it was proper to apply for Public Grants to “augment” and “foster” the process and that it would give the project an advantage with environmental issues.
Jessica Hall- Baykeeper’s representative had some concerns about the concept. She was questioning what Eureka’s role in the project and what the ramifications the city may face.
Susana Munzell- Member of the Land Bridge Alliance and Chair of the Humboldt Bay Harbor Working Group spoke in favor of the study.
Debbie Provolt- Pointed out the constraints of transportation, and the “Freight in, freight out” disadvantage that drives goods prices up for Humboldt. Felt this was a great step forward.
John Grobey- Former HSU Economics Professor pointed out that he was assigned in the 80’s to look into this for the Army Corp of Engineers and came to the conclusion that linkages between the Port and Land made no sense without each other. His observation of the North/South after the closure of rail service led him to believe that continuing rail service in the that direction make no sense. Supports the East/West concept.
Sid Berg- Said it was long shot, but we needed to do something to keep workers local.
Dave Schneider- Dock owner. Pointed out the loss of hundreds of jobs around the bay. Blamed some of problem on regulation and some on transportation structure and bad goods movement.  
Back to Council for deliberation:
Linda Atkins- Had problem with using Public funds for this project and felt the decision should be put off to a further date.
Marian Brady- Felt our weaknesses with “In and out” transportation halts prosperity and would support the project.
Melinda Ciarabellini- Was supporting resolution and didn’t want a “Missed Opportunity. “
Lance Madsen- (By remote) Wanted to see further harbor development. Supported Resolution.
Mike Newman- Eureka Mayor Pro Tem. “Baykeepers don’t want Harbor Development or more business! We need wages and jobs!” He pointed out that the short notice was not that important to him and said getting the “Rail Connect” committee together was a hard to do even once a month because of their geographic issues.
Linda Atkins- Closed council discussion by saying she had problems with the calling for a “Special Meeting” and felt there was no emergency. She said she was all for business, but this project would be something for her Grandchildren or their grandkids to enjoy. She publically said she was not against the rail or the project, but felt it should be privately funded and if they were going to use public funds there should be more time to discuss since the council never had discussed in the past “Using $300,000!”
The Resolution passed 4-1 Linda Atkins dissenting.


Stephen said...

More sign that the heyday of Progressive anti-working class political clout in Humboldt County is over and we can start planning for our future without constantly dealing with selfish yuppies who have theirs economic support system still intact while the local working family has to continually struggle to make ends meet with what little employment is available.

Anonymous said...

Ya Stephen, you tell it. Those damn people who have stuff you don't. How dare they. Just because they chose careers in relevant fields, worked hard, and were financially responsible instead of asking "where is mine?", "who will do for me?", and "when will I get a break?" doesn't make them better than you. You're special and don't forget it. Someday all your whining and blaming everyone else instead of looking in the mirror will pay off BIG TIME! Don't give up, Champ.

samoasoftball said...

8:37pm: Wow, that was a positive post.

Anonymous said...

Why will a rail line east be any more cost effective than the rail service south? If I remember correctly the main reason the rail service south shut down was because of expensive track maintenance costs and an inadequate amount of outbound freight to cover the almost yearly repairs needed to keep the line open.
Currently there is only one legal road that allows the industry standard 53' semi trailers into Eureka. SR299 east is length restricted, US101 south is length restricted so the only way in is 101 north. Any monies might be better spent on making 101 and 299 available to these longer trailers.

Eric Kirk said...

Any discussion of what the train would actually carry? It's a detail that always gets left out of the discussion.

Fred Mangels said...

Any discussion of what the train would actually carry?

The latest suggestion I'm aware of is coal for China, outgoing. Incoming could be the same stuff that's already being shipped in via other ports. I'm not sure, but I suspect outgoing could also be the the same as goes out of Oakland, if coal isn't a possibility.

... a detail that always gets left out of the discussion.

Unless I'm reading discussions here and elsewhere wrong, also being left out of the discussion is this $300k is for a feasibility study- to see if this idea holds water in the first place. A lot of people are poo- pooing the idea from the start and arguing against it before all the facts are put together.

Expensive, yes, but maybe that's just the way things are done nowadays, especially in California.

For those that haven't read my comments elsewhere, I am skeptical of the idea, if for no other reason than this is California. However, I do appreciate those trying to bring commerce to the area and think it should be looked into. Seems to be unnecessarily expensive, though, just to find out if it's a good idea.

Fred Mangels said...

BTW, Richard, nice summary of the meeting and participant's contributions. Do you take notes, or just have a good memory?

Joel Mielke said...

Thanks for the summary, Richard. This was so important that they had to call a "special meeting," but they couldn't do it on Saturday, when people might be able to show up.

Joel Mielke said...

And where are all of the "conservatives" who rail against public spending now that this pipe dream is costing us real money? Until now, of course, their sales pitch has been that private money will pay for this.

Anonymous said...

So why did they wait until March 29 to discuss it when the deadline is April 2?

samoasoftball said...

Fred: I took notes. The Harbor District used money left ($19,500)over from a Federal Grant for Transportation to do a "Pre" feasibility study of the East/West rail. The money we are using could not be given to any other entity and we had a "Use it or lose it" scenario. We hired BST Associates out of Washington, who do these type of rail projections and they will use a "USRailDesktop model" to figure estimates of operating costs. They will also provide a "Market Analysis" and "Financial Feasibility Analysis." The report should be done and reported by May. Members of the Eureka City Council and and Land Bridge Alliance came to our Harbor meeting to speak against us doing this "Pre" feasibilty. They wanted the whole enchilada. Their feasibility would be ready April 2014 at the earliest.

Fred Mangels said...

Would the "pre- feasibility" study come to a conclusive judgement as to whether this is a viable idea, or are both the pre- and full feasibility studies both going to be done, regardless. If both, then it gives the impression this might be a case of the studies being the end itself, rather than a means to an end.

In other words, will we end up having a post feasibility study regardless of the results of the other two studies?

$20k doesn't sound bad to me.

skippy said...

Great summary, Richard. Thanks for reporting it.

Julie Timmons said...

Thanks for the report, Richard. I'm looking forward to a MEANINGFUL assessment of rail possibilities. This county is just too damn isolated. I was pleased to note that when D Tyson spoke at the Cookhouse on Wednesday he stated that the study would look at a passenger component. From Red Bluff or Gerber or wherever the other end turns out to be, you should be able to pick up the Amtrak to Redding, Eugene , Portland etc. IF it pencils out. Happy Easter, everyone.

Joel Mielke said...

Who wouldn't want a passenger train in and out of here, but it looks to me like the rail proponents like Tyson will say anything (e.g., "it'll all be paid for by private funds") in order to gain public support.

humboldt taxpayer said...

urrggGGGarrgghh ARRRRRrrrrr..



Karen Brooks said...

When the Harbor Commissioners approved of spending +/-$20K on a pre-feasibility marketing study, that decision and meeting notice was +/- 24 hours. Those that spoke wanted: more time to allow other jurisdictions’ input, the funds to be allocated to the Feasibility Study, and the public to provide input. Richard, even though you were concerned, your decision allocated funds to a contractor without the benefit of community input.

The Eureka City Council's decision WAS time sensitive. You know that sometimes grants come up and special meetings are needed to move forward. I personally think that private funds, unless it is crowd funding, would elevate the finger-pointing and name-calling. Using public transportation funds to study a new rail line is appropriate. I’d like to know if a 125 mile rail line is cheaper that than an equal road. There is still time to weigh in on the Feasibility Study's scope while funding is being sought.

At the Harbor Working Group 3/27 luncheon David Tyson presented the UpState Rail Connect, Land Bridge Alliance, and the Feasibility Study including funds allocated. Attendees commented on elements for the Study like Julie’s on passenger service. David’s response to questions of cargo were repeatedly vague because markets are volatile and shift but specifically addressed that our Harbor wouldn’t berth a coal terminal as other ports are utilized for this commodity – nor would group members support it.

The Harbor Working Group is hosting a series of monthly Noon luncheons the last Wed of each month at the Samoa Cookhouse to educate the community on issues concerning our Harbor/Port. Jack Crider will speak on April 24th. Come one, come all.

samoasoftball said...

Good points and good information Karen. I have been at both Luncheons and will be at the next. Good for the public.

Anonymous said...

The only people that will ever profit from this are the people conducting the study.

samoasoftball said...

Karen: Just to follow up. The Harbor District gave 72 hours notice about our meeting. The staff report was available at least 24 hours in advance. No other public entity notified us that they wanted to make any comment nor did they seek ours for any of their decisions. Also, we allocate funds to contractors at almost every other meeting. More often than not for more $$, and often on the consent calendar. Just FYI. I don't feel we were out of order.

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