Wednesday, August 14, 2002
Railroad sale would take act of Legislature
The railroad authority doesn't have the power to sell the North Coast's railroad without an act of the state Legislature. That opinion came down from the Legislative Counsel of California, which was asked the question after a Chicago-area rail group began pursuing purchase of the railroad. Also, state money through the Traffic Congestion Relief Fund would have to be refunded after a sale, and can't be used by a private entity looking to buy the railroad, the counsel said.
That view rankled an attorney for the Chicago-based Eel River Railroad Co. Attorney Ronald Kuns railed against the legislative counsel for failing to do its homework. The counsel neglected to research federal law that preempts state law in the matter, he said. The federal Surface Transportation Board, Kuns said, "is the ultimate determinant of the entire matter." Eel River Railroad lead man Ted Niemeyer has repeatedly stated that he can get the rail up and running within a year of its purchase. If not, his offer goes, it will revert back to the state.
Also, the board agreed to ask the California Transportation Commission for $500,000 to clean out culverts and do similar work this year along the line to protect it from washing out in winter storms