A state court of appeal has summarily dismissed the North Coast Railroad Authority's (NCRA) claim that lawsuits filed by two northern California environmental groups should be moved to a "neutral" county, leaving the suits in the Marin Superior Court that had already rejected the motion charging it with bias.
According to spokespersons for Californians for Alternative Toxics (CATs) and Friends of the Eel River (FOER), the appeal was only the latest NCRA stall tactic. The railroad agency had already failed to convince a federal court that the NCRA, a state agency, could not be held accountable in state court for its state-funded actions under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The federal court spurned NCRA's arguments without a hearing.
"The NCRA is running out of excuses. They need to stop wasting California taxpayer dollars, and disclose and address the environmental impacts of re-opening the line, particularly through the unstable Eel River Canyon," said Scott Greacen of Friends of the Eel River.
"The NCRA wants to resurrect the freight rail line north of Windsor that is crumbling from decades of neglect, but ignore the danger of stirring up toxic, pesticide-treated wood and contaminated soil next to creeks, wetlands and the Russian River," said CATs' spokesperson, Patty Clary. "If Californians are to pay for it they deserve to know the true extent and potential harm of this project."
Californians for Alternatives to Toxics and Friends of the Eel River filed the lawsuits in July 2011. The groups asserted that the Environmental Impact Report (EIR), which the NCRA spent more than $3 million in California taxpayer funds to develop, failed to describe the environmental effects of resurrecting the railroad line and moving freight through Marin, Sonoma and Mendocino counties, and along numerous wetlands, creeks and the Russian River. Though the NCRA's plans clearly call for reopening the entire line from Humboldt Bay to the south, the EIR did not address the potential impacts on fisheries of rebuilding the line through the highly unstable Eel River Canyon.
FOER is dedicated to protecting the fisheries, water and watersheds of the great Eel River, once the most productive salmonid river on California's coast. CATs is a regional resource center for information and action about pesticides and other hazardous chemicals affecting Californians.