MINERVA — Decommissioned railcars owned by Iowa Pacific Holdings began arriving in Essex County this week and are now stored in the Town of Minerva.
A majority of the Board of Supervisors opposed the plan. And so do environmental groups such as Protect the Adirondacks, which is investigating possible legal action, in part, because of the close proximity to the Vanderwhacker Mountain Forest in the Adirondack Park’s Forest Preserve.
The first 28 Iowa Pacific cars were brought in Tuesday and left near North Woods Club Road on Sanford Lake Railway.
Those tracks transverse Hamilton and Essex counties through Minerva and Newcomb and connect with the Saratoga and North Creek Railway in Saratoga and Warren counties.
The company, which agreed not to include tank cars that have held oil, says it can store as many as 20,000 railcars along its track.
The Sandford Lake Railway line was built under an eminent-domain easement during World War II to transport titanium from the Tahawus Mine.
Iowa Pacific Holdings owns the easement now, but once the rail line no longer operates, that ownership reverts to the state on Forest Preserve lands and private landowners.
Minerva Town Supervisor Stephen McNally is “very disappointed” with the railcar-storage plan, saying his residents are proud of the community and worked hard to preserve its history.
He said in a news release that the cars will be stored on a dead-end line accessible only through North Creek “and, most importantly, over an aging train trestle over the Hudson River.
“Many groups and individuals work tirelessly to keep the Adirondack Park as the jewel it is, but I cannot see how storing these cars go with this vision,” McNally said.
By a weighted vote of 1,696 to 1,119, the Board of Supervisors opposed storage of the decommissioned railroad cars.
Thomas Scozzafava (R-Moriah) said he could not support the resolution because of the potential economic impact.
He said environmental groups are opposed because “they don’t like the aesthetics of it.
“This company is starving right now; they need this revenue, and they agreed not to put the oil cars there,” he said.
“It’s like telling a car dealer — and that’s what it will come to next — we don’t want you to park cars out in your lot,” the supervisor said, adding that Iowa Pacific “should have the right to store those cars on their property, on their railway.”
McNally told Scozzafava he would agree to disagree, “but it’s not being driven by the green groups. This is being driven by me and people who live in Minerva, trying to have a nice place.”
In addition to McNally and Newcomb Town Supervisor Wester Miga, the resolution to oppose railcar storage in Essex County was supported by Ronald Moore (R-North Hudson), Gerald Morrow (R-Chesterfield), Charles Harrington (R-Crown Point), Noel Merrihew (R-Elizabethtown) Joe Pete Wilson (D-Keene), Robert Politi (R-North Elba), Charles Whitson (R-St. Armand) and Joseph Giordano (R-Ticonderoga).
'STATE LEADERS AWOL'
Peter Bauer, executive director of Protect the Adirondacks, said: "There are many questions around this highly controversial activity. We need answers from state and local leaders.”
The group has urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the State Department of Environmental Conservation and Adirondack Park Agency to stop “this unwise plan.
“We must stop the trashing of the Adirondacks with old, out-of-service railcars,” he said in a news release.
“This is a major moment in the history of the Adirondack Park and the forever wild Forest Preserve, yet state leaders are AWOL,” Bauer said. “This runs counter to everything that the Adirondack Park is all about and must be stopped.”
He said the change in status from an operational rail line to essentially a storage yard “raises serious legal issues.”
The company may also need to go through an APA permitting process, Bauer said.
His group sees this as a new commercial use for the property, he said, and subject to regulations under the Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act, the DEC Rivers Act and Forest Preserve management restrictions.
He said Protect the Adirondacks attorneys are also looking at the regulations of the Surface Transportation Board and Federal Railroad Administration.
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