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?