So last Wednesday was my first meeting since I was appointed by the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors as a Director of the North Coast Railroad Authority. There are 8 other Directors from Marin to Humboldt County. The other Directors seemed to be familiar with playing in this sandbox forum and I didn’t know where the shovels were hidden. So endure with my report.
The first report of the day was by Merritt Perry Senior Project Manager with GDH Consulting. He has been working on the study of the Rail/Trail between Arcata and Eureka. He said the project could run about 18 million. I asked if there had been any discussion on potential plans with Cal Trans to include Samoa to Arcata and was told there were no plans currently or in the future for that portion.
The next item on the agenda was the “Skunk” train tunnel collapse issue. It looks like it will cost $300,000 to reopen. According to past studies the “Skunk” has over 20 million dollars impact in Mendocino County. Director Hemphill spoke of riding the “Skunk” since 1952 and pointed out that it was the only way for his Boy Scout troop to get to their camporee location. We approved a Resolution to go out to Mendocino governmental entities to help finance repairs.
We had much discussion over the possible sale of land adjacent to the Ukiah Railroad Depot. North Western Pacific Co. (NWPco.) is going to pay to clean up the property to the tune of $250,000. A representative for Cal Trans claimed that for NWPco. to help clean up property and then get paid back loan debts was actually a conflict of interest. The possible remediation and loan paybacks are moving forward.
Next we discussed the Development and Issuance of a Request for Proposals for Restoration Work in the Eel River Canyon. Cal Trout wants to do some creek restoration at Woodsman Creek near Laytonville. The project would include removing 200 feet of rail and future bridge installation once the rail is restored in the area. (On one side of this project has a collapsed rail tunnel and a landslide that has taken out the rail bed completely) Miles of trout habitat fixed until that time. Director Alex Stillman said, “Where we come from we don’t hold fish hostage!” California Trout was on the agenda just for discussion. There seemed to be procedural questions as to whether this was supposed to be on the agenda as an action item. No action was taken on this item and the petitioner Darren Mierau and NCRA Executive Director Mitch Stogner would work on language to bring back to the Directors in the future.
Property Specialist Doug McCorkle updated on filing for a 3 million dollar Tiger Grant Application with the US Transportation office for rail service restoration from Windsor to Redwood Valley. He said the odds were about 5% to for the grant to be approved.
Operator John Williams expressed his desire to have rail service in the near future to Cloverdale. Main products to railed from there would be Lumber and Aggregate. He is working on private funding besides the Tiger Grant. He feels the Ukiah Depot “Dirty Dirt” is actually owned by Union Pacific’s (UP). But it looks like the “Dirty Dirt” has been handed down to the NCRA, and he said he will clean the “Dirty Dirt”. Mr. Williams said current NWPco. business volumes were low and his company was at a “Negative Cash Flow” and blamed that in part by lack of consistent delivery due to “Turnout” issues created by Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) line. He felt that the completion of the SMART would lead to more business next year.
I have heard that people have been testifying at public meetings that Alex Stillman and I are rail obstructionists and anti-rail. Could you at least call and ask?