LaXRiverMarsh

Please attend the DNR hearing on Burlington Northern’s request to build a second rail line in the La Crosse River Marsh. 

2-5 p.m., Wednesday January 7

Black River Beach Center
1433 Rose Street
La Crosse, WI

And submit written comments/questions by January 17

 Click here for help drafting a letter

This notice has been posted on behalf of CARS — Citizens Acting for Rail Safety (with a few edits — any errors are mine!  Apologies for cross posting, trying to get word out far and wide.).  Forward to your family, friends, and neighbors, post on Facebook.  Spread the word!
For timely news on rail safety: DOT-111 READER
CALL TO ACTION VIDEO:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CgyAe2SnyUQ

More history — a stunning video:

http://insideclimatenews.org/video/boom-north-americas-explosive-oil-rail-problem

The Marsh is a centerpiece of La Crosse’s beauty, recreation, and identity.  It is a floodplain that protects us.  It is part of the Mississippi Flyway, with about 40% of migratory birds in North America flying past our back door.  The Marsh is at risk.
BNSF needs DNR approval to build a second rail and a service road in the Marsh.  The stated purpose is to increase efficiency.  But it opens us to the possibility of over 100 trains per day in the Marsh and throughout the region.  BNSF says speeds will increase to 45 mph in both directions.  But by law, the second rail would allow speeds of up to 60 mph.
How would rail expansion for high-risk Bakken oil trains increase chances for oil and other toxic spills that could devastate the marsh – and how would construction and expansion impact marsh ecology?  The DNR needs to hear your questions!  Keep in mind that this is a DNR hearing, and issues related to the La Crosse River Marsh are what the hearing is about.  Comments directly on point will have the most impact on the DNR’s decision.
The purpose of the hearing is for the DNR to hear public input and concerns.  THIS HEARING WILL BE OUR BEST CHANCE TO AFFECT WHAT HAPPENS TO THE LA CROSSE RIVER MARSH AND PERHAPS WETLANDS THROUGHOUT THE REGION. YOUR ATTENDANCE IS CRUCIAL FOR YOUR VOICE TO BE HEARD AND TO MAKE THE HEARING MEANINGFUL AND WORTHWHILE!
What can you do?
  • Attend the meeting and bring friends:  A room filled with concerned citizens has an impact.  The press and DNR will take note.  We can have an impact on the discussion and decision.
  • Speak at the meeting if you are willing.  You don’t have to be expert.  Just say why the marsh is important to you and what your concerns are about train traffic, more of it, and the risks involved.  Keep on point about the La Crosse River Marsh and the BNSF rail.  This is what the meeting is for.
  • Ask for an “Environmental Impact Statement” (EIS).  This project warrants an EIS because of it scale, implications for safety and health, and broad public concern.  An environmental expert would be hired at BNSF’s expense to assess the current use and health of the marsh, provide a baseline for future cumulative impact studies, and result in the best possible solutions if approval is given.  It would be paid for BNSF.
  • There is no guarantee that money BNSF pays for loss of flood plain will return to La Crosse.  Ask the DNR to find a way for BNSF to pay for improvements to the Marsh to minimize the impact of lost flood plain.
  • Provide written comments to the DNR before, during, or within 10 days after the meeting.   A paper trail has significant impact now and for the future.  Here is a link to help:  Click here for help on drafting a letter.
CARS goals for the hearing are:
  • For citizens to make the DNR aware of the importance of the Marsh and risks of this project, to share concerns, and to ask questions.
  • To provide the DNR with information to make well-informed decisions that would prevent construction of a second rail or reduce the risks and impacts.
Risks to the Marsh — the basics:
  • Rail transport of Bakken crude in unsafe DOT-111 tankers has skyrocketed to about six 100-car trains daily (430,000 barrels).  Enbrige’s Alberta Clipper Pipeline carries 450,000 barrels per day.  Essentially BNSF railway is a “rolling pipeline” through the Upper Mississippi Refuge and the Marsh.
  • Spills are over 3 times more likely per mile by rail oil transport than by pipeline.  There has been more than one spill per day from tankers this year in the US.  Some have destroyed marshes and seriously polluted rivers.
  • Spills into marshes are virtually impossible to clean up.  There is no effective, acting model for marsh spill containment. A large spill would destroy the Marsh’s ecosystem.
  • Proposed expansion would eliminate 7.28 acres of marsh, which will not be replaced in or near Myrick marsh, and may not even happen within the La Crosse watershed.
A few of many questions:
  • Could increased vibration, noise, and pollution threaten habitat for species such as rare black terns and yellow headed blackbirds as well as many other species?
  • Floodplain will be removed.  With the increased occurrence of local flooding, is the 100-year flood criteria used by the DNR still sufficient to protect citizens?  To prevent flood insurance increases?
  • Could our local Hazmat team prevent a spill from spreading to the Mississippi?
  • Who will pay for training for first responders?
  • Who would pay for any clean-up should there be a problem?
It is so easy to think, “It could never happen here.” 
But remember it has happened elsewhere.  It’s happened recently in Lynchburg, Aliceville, Lac Megantic, and Casselton (twice in one year!).  Imagine La Crosse with a fouled, dead Marsh and oil-contaminated La Crosse River flowing through the city to Riverside Park and into the Mississippi.  That is the risk.
Let’s do all we can to prevent it!  See you at 2-5 p.m. Wednesday, January 7th.  And please forward this email to friends!
Sincerely,
CARS, Citizens Acting for Rail Safety
Ralph Knudson, Nancy Heerens-Knudson, Irv Balto, Marina Dvorak, Maureen Freedland, Bruce Kuehmichel, Chuck Lee, Carolyn Mahlum-Jenkins, Curtis Miller, Fred Nicklaus, George Nygaard, Rich Pein, Karen Ringstrom, Jeff Sexton, Jan Stack, Alan Stankevitz,  Guy Wolf
For timely news on rail safety: DOT-111 READER
To help defray costs of flyers, copies, ink, photos, etc, please send a check for any amount.  Please be aware that CARS does not have tax-exempt status for deductions.Thank you!
CARS
Citizens Acting For Rail Safety
Jeff Sexton, Treasurer 
2820 Cass Street
La Crosse,‎ WI‎    54601 
LacMegantic_3

sandblowing

The silica sand rulemaking process drags on and will probably end soon.  Meetings have been going on for a year now, and what is there to show for it?  Not much.  But as of yesterday, there are some draft rules!  YES!  About time…

There was a Comment Period that ended in November, and here are the Comments:

MPCA’s rulemaking – Response to second request for comments

Very few comments were filed — only 10 (I’d attached a previous comment to this one, but it was stuck separately at the top of the pile) — why so few comments, what’s up with that?

As for rulemaking, there’s been a little bit of progress reported by Katie Himanga (THANK YOU, Katie!) after yesterday’s meeting of the “Advisory Panel.”  Word from that meeting is that “ALL AGENCIES PLAN TO GO TO PUBLIC NOTICE IN THE 1ST QUARTER OF 2015.“  And so it looks like the January 8 meeting will be the last one, January 8 is scheduled, and no others show on the Advisory Panel site (but they could always add more, as they have in the past).

The Agenda is posted, but the meeting materials weren’t there yet.  So I checked with Nathan Cooley, and he sent them right over:

20141204 10th SSRAP Agenda

20141125 Draft Silica Sand Emission Rule (Draft Proposed Rules Governing Emissions from Silica Sand Projects)

DEFINITIONS_EQB (silica sand related definitions, rule and statute)

EXHIBIT M (AMBIENT AIR MONITORING PROCEDURES for
DETERMINATION OF COMPLIANCE, 12/18/2013)

SSRAP__DRAFT EQB__12__4__2014_CLEAN (this is proposed language to insert silica sand mines/project/facilities into EAW and EIS categories)

Here’s how Cooley ended that missive, definitely a “don’t call me, I’ll call you” sort of finale:

There is no current request for public comment on silica sand rulemaking. We remain focused on seeking representative input from the SSRAP panel. Thanks for your interest and your understanding.

Well, Advisory Panel, he’s saying it’s up to you!  You’re our representatives!

StateRailPlanlogo

There’s a “State Rail Plan” and it’s up for comment NOW! But I’m wondering just what it is that they’re trying to do, and it seems like the goal is to secure public spending for necessary private infrastructure.  If not, what’s the goal here?

MN DOT has been holding meetings all over the state, Alan went to one in Red Wing last week, and there’s a couple more coming up:

Nov. 24: Moorhead, MN
Hjemkomst Center 5 – 7 p.m.

Nov. 25: Winona, MN
City Council Chambers 5 – 7 p.m.

What’s up for comment?

Start with this 2010 Report from the DOT website:

MN Rail Plan Final Report Feb2010

And updates to consider:

Now check this, from last February:

BNSF Announces $5 Billion Capital Commitment Program

Why is this news?  Isn’t it their job to keep the rails in decent shape, to invest in their own infrastructure, not just to put money in Warren Buffet’s pockets!

When the DOT predicts this level of service (LOS) with or without improvements, are they including improvements such as the $5 billion of BNSF?  The DOT seems to be cheerleading for PUBLIC spending on PRIVATE infrastructure!  These are private for-profit companies (well, some may be “public” in the corporate sense) and they are responsible for their infrastructure.  What is the DOT doing to force the rail companies to upgrade to keep their Level of Service (LOS) at an acceptable rate, SAFELY, so they’re able to handle all the freight that they’re wanting to ram through our communities?  It’s not the job of government to subsidize the likes of Warren Buffet!

2030 Freight&Pass with Improvements

Here’s a freight survey from their site — note it’s called “Metroquest” so go figure.

Something I found interesting when considering rail is this testimony from the Sandpiper pipeline case (go HERE and plug in dockets 13-473 for Certificate of Need and 13-474 for Routing):

Rennicke_Direct_20148-102135-05

They’re framing this Bakken BOOM! as binary, either rail or pipeline, and whenever something is framed that way, that’s a big red flag to take a closer and more thoughtful look.

DOT says there are going to be “stakeholder” meetings — meetings that should be well attended by people like us!  From their site:

  • Three major stakeholder meetings are also scheduled, coinciding with the November 2014 Passenger Rail Forum, the December 2014 Freight Summit, and the January 2015 Passenger Rail Forum. A second round of open houses will be held in early 2015.

So when are these meetings?  Passenger Rail Forum meetings are supposed to happen monthly but don’t.  Just this last Monday, Gov. Dayton’s “Rail Summit” was supposed to have happened. MPCA Commissioner Stine mentioned it at yesterday’s meeting and said there would be another next month, and Frank Hornstein’s fb post, but there’s very little about it in the news other than announcements 10/31 that it would happen, in St. Paul, and of course we all weren’t invited:  http://hometownsource.com/2014/10/31/gov-dayton-to-convene-minnesota-rail-summit-on-nov-17/

Here’s how it’s framed by our good friends at KSTP — if you click on the link, it’s pipeline promotion:

Dayton Hosts Governor’s Rail Summit to Discuss Rail Safety, Backlog

KSTP.com-Nov 17, 2014
Railroad, agriculture and political leaders will be attending the Governor’s Rail Summit to talk about increasing railway safety, addressing the …

Back to the DOT — look at this “Passenger Rail Forum” and how that’s been “working” — meeting after meeting canceled:

Forum meetings

All forum meetings are held from 10 a.m. to noon at the State Office Building unless otherwise specified below. Meetings will be canceled when there are insufficient topics to merit a meeting.

State Office Building, Room 5
100 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd
St. Paul, MN 55155

Date

Location / Time

Jan. 6, 2014 Canceled
Feb. 3, 2014 Canceled
March 3, 2014 Conference call
April 7, 2014 Conference call
May 5, 2014 Conference call
June 2, 2014 Canceled
July 7, 2014 Canceled
Aug. 4, 2014 Conference call
Sep. 8, 2014 Rescheduled to Sept. 15 via conference call
Oct. 6, 2014 Canceled
Nov. 10, 2014 State Office Building, Room 5, 10 a.m. to Noon
Dec. 1, 2014 State Office Building, Room 5, 10 a.m. to Noon

Check out their site.  What are they really doing here?  What’s really at issue?  I think we’re looking at a scam to get the public to pick up the tab for infrastructure updates that haven’t been made over the last few decades:

Money

Money2

These slides are from this presentation — note the date: November 12, 2009… presented at the November 12, 2010 meeting (That’s what the date is on the site, and the 2009 date matches up with the properties date.)  ???

PTACPres20091112

And another thing… why is the Norwegian American Chamber of Commerce interested in Bakken BOOM oil and why is DNV-GL top-heavily loading the panel coming up here on December 4th?

MPCAlogo

There was a notice on the MPCA Silica Sand page that the 10/29 deadline for Comments on their latest “rule concept” release, but couldn’t find a notice.  So I got ahold of Nathan Cooley who said he’d get on it, and lo and behold, a formal “Notice” is released and lands in the inbox!  YES!  Thank you!

Here it is, it’s official, straight from the State Register, p. 586:

MPCA_Notice11-21-2014So what to comment on?  This, from the MPCA site:

Second request for comments (September 2014); deadline for comments extended to Nov. 21, 2014.

The DNR also has rulemaking going on about trout stream setbacks and reclamation of abandoned mines.  MORE INFO HERE!

MaidenRockSandDerail_RepubBeagleIt’s that time again — the Silica Sand Advisory Committee is meeting again on Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the People’s Energy Cooperative in Oronoco, Minn.

Here’s the Agenda:

Agenda

Dig this:

Charlie

In my experience, the search/stretch for consensus is the first step in unreasonable compromise.  It takes a push to change things, and it’s important not to give up too soon.

As you know, I’ve been frustrated at the way these meetings are handled, in that they’re NOT doing what a rulemaking advisory committee is supposed to do, which is review and comment on draft rules.  And we’re not getting representation on this committee, there are no regular updates from members that I’m aware of, unless I ask on a list, so we’re not getting any opportunity for input or feedback from the representatives.  Plus there’s Charlie Peterson

I was listening to the July meeting, and for introductions, there were only six members of the committee present:

Tara Wetzel – MN Aggregate Ready Mix Assoc.

Beth Procter – Lime Twp., Blue Earth County

Al Frechette – Scott County

Doug Losee – Unimin

Tom Rowekamp – IT Sand

Kelly Stanage – Citizen Rep. from Houston County

I’ve heard from Amy Nelson that she, Keith, and Vincent Ready were there.  Katie just let me know she was there.  Others?  Were introductions not broadcast?  Did anyone come in later?   Can’t tell, it was audio only (unless I’m missing something), and the audio was out for a large part of the presentation.  Where are the alternates?  Where are the alternates?  And if members are determining that it’s a big waste of time and don’t want to show up, well, it seems they ought to let the agencies know so replacements can be found!  And so the meetings can be changed to become more ___________ and less _________ so members can and will attend!

Here’s the bright spot of the day, from what I’ve seen:

EQB Process

Look where they put the “Advisory Panel.” IT’S IN THE RIGHT PLACE!!!  YES!!!  Now, there needs to be another arrow, though, or a expansion of the purple square that says, “Advisory Panel review of draft rules.”  They’re sidestepping by saying that, even the EQB Board, will “review draft rule concepts.”  NOPE, not good enough, eliminate that word “concepts” and let’s start reviewing rules, the Advisory Panel and the EQB.  DRAFT RULES!  It’s that simple.

From the site, here are the future planned meetings:

Upcoming meetings

All of these meetings will be held at the People’s Energy Cooperative (Oronoco, Minn.) and run from 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.