For the Curiously Aware of Humboldt County…
By Skippy Massey
RAIL FEASIBILITY STUDY GATHERS STEAM AFTER EUREKA CITY COUNCIL APPROVAL
Hank Sims correctly predicted Eureka’s Fantasy Pacific railroad proposal would be off and running after the Humboldt Bay Alternative Rail Route Feasibility Study was endorsed by the Eureka City Council Tuesday.
The Council not only approved the feasibility proposal after the 4-0 vote (Councilmember Lance Madsen was absent) but directed city staff to locate funding sources and technical support. Attorney and rail advocate Bill Barnum pointed out it’s a preliminary request looking at connecting Humboldt Bay’s shipping to a proposed rail corridor reaching Red Bluff.
The Sentinel will report more of Tuesday’s Council actions with the back story here.
Mr. Barnum believes the idea of a rail corridor should not be discredited before all the facts are in and given a fair consideration. He indicated there’s been misinformation circulating in the community. The idea, as bold as it seems, requires careful evaluation, vision, and leadership.
Responding to Hank Sims at the Lost Coast Outpost last week, Mr. Barnum clarified a few points for readers:
I am curious why you feel a need to disparage this idea? Really, it sort of mystifies me.
To be helpful about a few details:
1. Nobody is ready to break ground just yet. The request is to investigate alternatives. This is what CEQA is all about. The map you copied above is merely to depict the route proposed in 1909 by local surveyor Jess Lentell. It may not be the route that is built – indeed a railroad may never be built.
2. The railroad is not proposed for public ownership and operation. No one is suggesting a publicly-owned-and-operated rail line. If rail is developed, the rail would be privately owned. The City of Eureka owns substantial land that could be developed and leased to the public’s benefit. I guess that is why the City may be interested in at least studying the matter.
3. I am certain the private railroad will not be financed by you. We will take you off the list of potential investors. If you should change your mind, let us know. To be clear, I will not be an owner either, so I guess we have that in common, Hank.
4. Most (but certainly not all) people living in Humboldt County would like to see some new source of employment sometime in our lifetimes. The government job hey-day is over. The state grant gravy-train (a different sort of train), is off the tracks and not likely to return. The State of California has resorted to eating its own by disallowing Redevelopment Agencies. The hand-writing is on the wall. Before Humboldt County becomes another Greece, it might be prudent to search out some private employment possibilities, huh?
5. Some people disparage the idea, other people have their hair on fire. I just don’t get that.
So, Hank, have your fun. Hell, you might be the smartest guy around. But if you don’t mind, when it comes to railroad engineering, I would rather get a feasibility study out of a railroad engineering firm. They do exist.
The beat goes on. It will be interesting to see who shows up Tuesday night to fight the idea of a feasibility study. See you then, Hank?
Mr. Barnum replied to another post:
In reply to Guest above, you are incorrect. I do not want to sell the future railroad any land, and none of its possible course would run through property I own. You are not the first person to suggest this; but you should stop it. It is not true.
My interest in this idea of rail to the valley goes back more than 20 years when I helped found the Humboldt Bay Alliance for Economic Development. My hope is to see a rail connection that helps with goods movement using Humboldt Bay as a connector between ships and the National Rail System. We are closest to Asia and a rail connection in the valley makes sense for bridging rail outside the busy San Francisco Bay Area transportation bottle-neck. Some of the freight stream could be opened here and value added, then re-packaged into containers for shipment. A modern railroad would include double-decked containers and could operate so that trains could transit from Red Bluff to Eureka in about 3 hours. This avoids congested ports and makes sense to people in that industry.
I know that many people are dedicated to seeing no or little economic change here, and many opposing posters resort to mockery and insults. My suggestion is that if the idea is feasible we should promote it. Many will disagree. That’s politics. Fine with me.
Tonight the Eureka City Council voted 4-0 (with Lance Madsen absent) to support
the idea and promote a feasibility study for an eastern rail route from
Humboldt Bay to Red Bluff. Thanks!
Readers weighed in with their comments, too. Here were a few by the proponents of rail optimism:
“This is a feasibility concept. People on both sides are saying it can or cannot be done. Why not get a definitive answer and find out? What will it haul? Who will pay for it, if it can be built? I would think that would be part of the study. Why taxpayer funding? Why not? We study and build roads to promote commerce. Is this that different? Without taxpayer dollars to maintain highways into Humboldt, we would be isolated in less than a year.”
“This is great news. Mocking research into railroad development is just stupid and short-sighted. A rail connection to the central valley is a major infrastructure improvement, the kind that makes your region more economically viable. And a railroad is FAR preferable to increased road access. …The niche for a Humboldt Bay port is not to compete against Oakland, LA and Long Beach, obviously. Those are enormous operations that serve a different purpose. The idea is to have a smaller port where a different type of shipping can predominate. The railroad provides an outlet for goods that arrive via Humboldt Bay, but equally important it provides an outlet for goods that are produced in Humboldt County. There is really no good reason to oppose researching an Eastern rail link, which is far more promising than the Southern route.”
“Gentlepersons, unless there is a major upgrade for accessibility, we will continue to be a backwater. …All costs are high to be here. Primarily, it is the isolation from the rest of the US that is the problem…”
“Will there be a direct connection to the China-Chunnel?”
Some naysaying nabobs of doubt offered their two cents:
“Is it crazier to imagine opening the line south and fighting the terrain and washouts for a longer stretch, or to create a new line east? I think most of us would drool at the prospect of a train connecting us to Amtrak, and for shipping, but it’s hard to imagine it could really be economically feasible in this part of the state.”
“I don’t have a problem with the idea of a rail line to the East. Problem is, what would it haul? I can’t think of any cargo that would be significant enough to make it worthwhile.”
“I suggest taking a look at the NCRA file at the Regional Water Board office in Santa Rosa. One of the things you will see are decades worth of business feasibility studies, all nicely bound and printed in multiple colors. These studies look into all the myriad ways a railroad south could be made to pay… These studies were not cheap and none of them was ever acted upon. At their most innocent, they were public dollars spent on trying to provide rationale… held by people of influence in the Humboldt Bay Area. …But at a more fundamentally corrupt level, these “studies” were just money being handed out to make work for favored consulting companies. They may have been favors to politicians or lobbyists that have connections to the consultants. They may have been a way to keep the party going at public expense for a favored segment of the community. The one thing the studies were not was a serious attempt to actually get the railroad running.”
“Is the council seriously suggesting we spend staff time and our hard-to-come-by revenues on this sort of craziness?”
While one post curiously stood out unto its own:
“I already did this “study” for you… I will repeat it (again) for free.
There is this geographic feature of the North American continent called the “Great Salt Lake” which is approximately 600 miles due east of Eureka. All east-west transcontinental rail traffic must split east of the Great Salt Lake, and the northern route proceeds to Boise and then Seattle, while the southern route goes to Reno and then Oakland. The truth is that Redding is just as far from markets as Eureka is. So even if it is true that Eureka is a half day’s sea travel closer to Asia, it is at least a day farther from markets by rail. A half day or more would actually be lost by using the Port of Eureka, even supposing that a rail car could make it from Eureka to Redding to Oakland in one day. Most likely it will be two or three days.
There is nothing that we can do about this. So there you go, by accident of geography Eureka will never be a competitive deepwater West Coast port. … Then there are other issues. Could the railway to Redding actually be built? Yes, if you want to spend enough money. …You might be able to lay a new rail line across flat prairie or desert for $5 million a mile but not through those mountains. A half dozen tunnels and a half dozen bridges will cost $500 million all on their own.
This project, technically feasible will cost anywhere from $3 to $5 billion, minimum. The line would have to be heavily taxpayer subsidized or it could not exist and it will never be profitable, because of the geographical facts above.
If in some fantasy world this line was actually completed what would it haul? Although no Asian shipper of manufactured goods would use the port (because of the geographical facts above) shippers of dangerous, explosive or hazardous materials would like to have a lightly populated port to ship through. So we would get the nuclear waste, the caustic industrial chemicals and industrial acids, petroleum distillates, and military munitions. That’s your upside…
There’s your study.”
Granted, there are many questions concerning the rail proposal. Can it be built? What will it cost? What will it haul? Where will the route traverse? Is it economically viable? The proposal does have merit for consideration. It deserves further discussion. Free from speculation, conjecture, and opinion, a feasibility study would provide accurate and forthcoming answers to these questions, and we trust, be made available to the public.
More of the 260 comments about Eureka’s East-West railroad proposal can be found at:
The Eureka City Council Agenda Summary on the Humboldt Bay Alternative Rail Route Feasibility Study can be found here, courtesy of Mr. Sims.
Meanwhile, far, far away from the Redwood Curtain, China recently completed a 30-story building in only 15 days. How were they able to accomplish this so quickly? Able to withstand a 9.0 earthquake and 5 times more energy efficient than its counterparts, China’s new skyscraper is a testament to ingenuity, speed, and planning. With labor standards, regulations, bureaucracy and unions pushed aside, we hope they used a higher quality drywall than usual.
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SNIPPETS, RUMORS, HEARSAY MURMURS, AND THE LINKS: “Building Community”
MUMS THE WORD: No word has been received by Supervisor Clendenen offering an explanation here or at Ernie’s Place about the giveaway of STIP (State Transportation Improvement Program) monies to the Highway 101 Safety Corridor instead of repairing Garberville’s roads, as mentioned in last week’s Sentinel Roundup . As we previously said, it’s a sticky sore point stuck between State monies, County road repairs, and 2nd District constituents. Perhaps Supervisor Clendenen feels silence is golden and doesn’t need to explain such decisions to his district’s residents or shameless blogs requesting answers. Who needs pesky voters anyway?
GIVE US YOUR POOR, YOUR SICK, YOUR HUDDLED MASSES: St. Joseph Hospital is opening the doors and inviting the community to see its new $140 million, 100,000 square foot Northeast Tower addition. At $1,400 per square foot, that’s one heck of an improvement. The open house tours are Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 9.a.m. to 3 p.m. The open house is free; however, donations have always been readily accepted for their past, present, and future needs. And you thought they only wanted your blood.
SHELTER HELTER SKELTER: Heidi Walters’ article and photos in The Journal, ‘New Direction’, explains what happened regarding the North Coast Resource Center closure and former Executive Director John Shelter’s future plans. After his sudden fall, will Mr. Shelter rise from the NCRC ashes like a legendary phoenix? You can bet on it.
MORE SHELTER: Kym Kemp kindly reminds us the Eureka Extreme Weather Shelter has opened. She reports Shelter Coordinator Steve Bell said they’ve helped a lot of different people since the shelter has been available. “We’ve had new faces and about 2 new people a day. It’s a really positive situation here,” Bell said. “I’m hoping that we provide a model of what can be done.” Mr. Bell asked everyone to please direct people to go to the Mission, 110 2nd Street in Eureka, where they will go through intake and receive food, hot showers and clean clothes. Very pleased with how the new shelter is working out, Mr. Bell thanked those who helped, including the Eureka Main St. Organization, the Chamber (of Commerce), the North Coast Veteran’s Resource Center, the Eureka Rescue Mission, and the people at Teen Challenge. Mr. Bell can be rung at (707) 498-9611. Thank you, Mr. Bell. You, too, are helping build a sense of community.
GREED AND WEED: Kevin Hoover and the Arcata Eye fill us in on the 6 quick marijuana busts made over a two-day period while the Two Rivers Tribune reports related pot problems. Humboldt County Supervisors, meanwhile, discussed their environmental concerns caused by weed cultivation and unpermitted grading in the county, comparing the damage to the ‘worst of the timber industry.’
HEALTH AND WELLNESS IS BIG BUSINESS: Arcata’s Mad River Community Hospital has big plans and an even bigger complex waiting in the wings.
REAL DEAL: The Rio Dell City Council met in a special closed session discussing a $975,000 contract offered to the property’s owner for a proposed business plaza development. Rio Dell’s plans call for a new supermarket, strip mall, two motels, restaurants, a gas station and retail space sitting on the 20 acre site adjacent to Highway 101. If the contract is accepted by the property owner, the next step is for the city to get a commitment from four or five businesses to participate in the development. (UPDATE): Unable to reach agreement between the City Of Rio Dell and the property owner, the Rio Dell Business Plaza has stalled. Here’s the counteroffer deal breaking letter.
BUS FUSS: Virginia Graziani of the Redwood Times reports, “The Southern Humboldt Unified School District is calling all interested students, parents, and community members to join a caravan to Sacramento next Tuesday, Jan. 24, to let our state legislators and Governor Jerry Brown know how important school bus transportation is to rural communities.” Get on the bus, Gus. Make a new plan, Stan. Ms. Graziani also reports on the lesser important ho-hum SoHum school news, too. The Times-Standard’s Jessica Cejnar reported more on Sohum’s Bus Party to Sacto, as well.
EASTERN COMMUNITY SHOP TALK: Two Rivers Tribune’s Allie Hostler and Malcolm Terence talk access, degradation, and protection of Hoopa tribal land , tanoak mushroom picking, and Willow Creek’s new playschool.
COMMUNITY ORGANIZER HEIDI BENZONELLI and the Westside Community Improvement Association invite neighbors, friends, and community partners to a BBQ and community workday this Saturday, January 21. Whether it rains or shines, it’s happening. Bring your tools if you have them. Ms. B. requests your presence “joining the community while we build our future, 10 am ‘til around 3, BBQ somewhere around noon. We’ll be at the future home of the Jefferson Community Park Gardens and Community Center, 1000 B street Eureka. It looks like rain so we will plan most activities for indoors.” This event is hosted by Westside Community Improvement Association and sponsored by First Five Better Together, Humboldt Area Foundation and Eureka First United Methodist Church. That’s quite a collaboration. Questions? Call 498-5764.
RAINING CATS AND DOGS: When will it stop? Not for awhile. Don’t complain, you’ll see a glimpse of the sun next Wednesday. Then hunker down for a solid week or two of rain. You asked for it. Maybe it’s a good time to visit your local library and settle down with a good book.
SOMEBODY THAT YOU USED TO KNOW: 32 million viral views and counting. We didn’t know a community of 5 friends could play one guitar at the same time and perform such a hauntingly beautiful melody together.
THE WEEKEND CALENDAR:
SLAMMIN’ SALMON: ACCESS HUMBOLDT is presenting an environmental documentary by Thomas Dunklin Friday, January 27 at 7 p.m. Dunklin is a fisheries geo-videologist and producer of documentary videos surrounding salmon, restoration, and salmon culture. His work encompasses underwater views from the Smith and Klamath Rivers, watershed restorations projects, Klamath dam and other amazing underwater wildlife footage. Questions and answers will follow Dunklin’s selected work. Movie trivia, prizes, and a reception will follow at the adjacent Access Humboldt Community Media Center.
The cost is $5 and all are welcome to attend. Folks, the seats are comfortable, the people and food good, and the price is right supporting independent community media. What isn’t there to like?
When Gandhi was asked what he thought of Western civilization, he said, “It would be nice.”