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Railroad Retraction

Whoa, somebody pinch me! Yesterdays article about the Tongue River Railroad easement has been proven incorrect. The Associated Press is reporting that the Montana FWP Commissioners today “declined to grant a 25-acre easement sought by the railroad for now“. I recant everything I ever said about the FWP Commissioners. Even though they promised more negotiations with the Tongue River Railroad Company and could now face federal condemnation proceedings, they took a stand for sturgeon saying, “they were uncomfortable with a tentative deal to let the railroad pass through a state fish hatchery in Miles City where endangered pallid sturgeon are raised“. Just when you think you’ve got ’em figured out… Give the guys some credit for cajones. As a hopeful sign, Rebecca Jakes Dockter,  attorney for the Commission said, when asked about the condemnation option,  “Unfortunately, this is where it will go, if it goes in at all“. Hopefully this is also a good sign for the other eight easements over state lands needed by the railroad. Maybe they won’t be rubber-stamped.

In other news, the article states that railroad developer Mike Gustafson revealed that the road could cost $600 million instead of the original estimate around $300 million. Independent estimates put the figure at closer to $1 billion for the screwball scheme.

4 Responses

  1. […] – who has said “NO” to the railroad moving through his property – and FWP, whose board recently denied a request from Great Northern for its railroad through some of its land. Condemnations and eminent domain requests are messy and lengthy. Why should the state lease its […]

  2. They should not be taking 3 different documents that went through 3 separate different processes.

    They should also not be using old documents like that – there should at least be another baseline inventory done to determine whether the situations out there are the same, for crying out loud.

    You say that DNRC has been designated the lead agency…that’s odd – in all other situations – most recently and currently, the two large transmission line projects being attempted in Montana, the DEQ is the lead agency, even on DNRC lands, for MEPA.

    Frankly, that RR is being built to benefit production of minerals on DNRC lands. Otter Creek is DNRC, right? Isn’t that..what do they call it?….a conflict of interest?

    Oh – one more – I love how the state DOES NOT look at connected actions with MEPA. They’ve done it for years – this last session, they legislated to make it officially OK.

    NEPA doesn’t allow that – they are required to look at connected actions (actions/results/repercussions of the project in its entirety. When they don’t (the feds), they usually get sued. And when they get sued, they lose for not analyzing for connected actions.

    Perhaps some letters to Dept. of Interior and Sec. of Interior and Obama, regarding BLM, are in order.

  3. what are the “other” state lands involved? Are they trust lands, having to go through the Land Board? or MDOT lands…

    If they’re trust lands, the Land Board is probably going to approve them…they don’t look at outside effects in that MEPA analysis – only those located with the piece of land where the easement is located.

    really – no matter what state lands they are, they gotta do MEPA. – and frankly, if there is any federal land involved with this rail road (surely, there is, no?), then the state MEPA really should be looking at that NEPA, too.

    • MEPA, NEPA, hey we’re talking jobs here and taxes and lots’a coal money. What are you, some kinda commie instigator?

      Actually I don’t know the exact mix of state lands other than there are nine state parcels crossed including MCFH. The DNRC has been designated the lead agency for MEPA concerns on all state lands.

      The RR also crosses 7 BLM parcels with 112 acres of easements, but there are “no significant adverse environmental effects”. It would cross the Battle Butte Battlefield historic site and would “adversely affect” that site.

      The RR goes through the USDA Ft. Keogh Livestock & Range Research Station but they are working out mitigation (read money) conditions.

      I think one of the main problems is that the environmental analyses that all this stuff is based on are spread out over twenty years since 1986 and in three different EIS documents. There have been physical changes, ownership changes and changes in the environmental laws… The last EIS (2003) is 380 pages. It’s a real mess.

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