NORTH COAST RAILROAD AUTHORITY (NCRA)

BOARD OF DIRECTORS REGULAR MEETING

 

 Wednesday, January 21, 2004   10:00 AM 

Arcata City Council Chambers - 736 F Street, Arcata, Humboldt County

 

MINUTES

 

A.                 CALL TO ORDER

Chair Woolley called the meeting to order at 10 am and welcomed new board member, Doug Ellinger, Deputy Director of Engineering for Mendocino County Transportation Department.

 

B.                 ROLL CALL

Directors Present: Chair John Woolley, Leo Sears, Doug Ellinger, Allan Hemphill, David Ripple, Robert Simonson and Bruce Burton.

 

Also Present: Executive Director Mitch Stogner, General Counsel Chris Neary and Recording Secretary Dina Polkinghorne.

 

C.                 CONSENT CALENDAR

1.      Approval of Minutes – 12/17/03 Regular Board Meeting

2.      Approve Passenger Easement correcting legal description 

 

Director Sears requested that Item C.2 be removed form the Consent Calendar, and be placed to follow Item F.5.

 

ACTION: Upon motion by Director Simonson, 2nd by Director Ripple, and carried (7-0) the board approved the Consent Calendar with the removal of Item C.2 to follow Item F.5.

 

D.                AGENDA APPROVAL

Chair Woolley asked that Agenda Approval be placed before the Consent Calendar on all future agenda’s.

 

                Mr. Neary recommended that Item F. 4 and F.5 be placed after the Closed Session. He also

                requested to add another item to Closed Session, Item I.1 d – Potential Litigation.

 

            ACTION: Upon motion by Director Hemphill, 2nd by Director Sears, and carried (7-0),

            the board approved the Agenda with the following changes: Item F.4 and F.5 be placed

            after Item J and another item be added to Closed Session, Item I.1 d.

 

E.                 PUBLIC COMMENT

Kaye Strickland, Citizens for Port Coalition

Ms Strickland reported that Mr Fred Carmichael sent a letter regarding transportation and rail service in the North Coast to the new Governor and received a response, which did not mention rail service. This prompted Ms. Strickland to send a letter reiterating the importance of rail service in the North Coast.  She submitted copies of these letters to the Secretary.

 

F.                  CONDUCT OF BUSINESS

1.         Election of Officers – Chair, Vice Chair, Second Vice Chair

           

ACTION: Upon motion by Director Simonson, 2nd by Director Ripple, and carried (7-0), Chair John Woolley was reappointed as Chair.

 

ACTION: Upon motion by Director Ripple, 2nd by Director Hemphill, and carried (7-0) Director Bob Simonson was appointed to the office of Vice Chair.

 

 No Second Vice Chair was appointed.

 

2.                  Appointment to Finance Committee

 

ACTION: Chair Woolley appointed Doug Ellinger to the Finance Committee

 

3.                  Appointment to Property Committee

 

ACTION: Chair Woolley appointed Dave Ripple to the Property Committee

 

G.                PRESENTATIONS

Due to transportation difficulties, Mr. Hart was running late. Without objection form the board, the Chair skipped item G.1.to be revisited when Mr. Hart arrives.

 

2.) Michael Sabbaghian – Office of Emergency Services

 

Mr. Stogner stated that due to some last minute transportation difficulties, Mr. Sabbaghian was unavailable to make a presentation In Mr. Sabbaghian’s absence, Mr Stogner reported that the comment period for public input on what the environmental impact of this project would be, expired on Dec 22, 2003. The NCRA has done all that was requested and submitted an application for approximately $8 million. The comments received did not include any significant environmental concerns – most of the comments addressed procedural issues. The NCRA responded to those procedural issues and the application is now in the hands of FEMA. Once the award is received, the process of rehabilitating the South End of the railroad can begin immediately. Mr. Stogner further stated that the NCRA received a letter from FEMA indicating that a scope of work be submitted by March 31, 2004.

 

Pete Oringer  Mr. Oringer inquired about the process involved from this point forward.

 

Mr. Neary stated that at a meeting last year with FEMA, OES, the NCRA and other interested parties, it was agreed that as soon as an environmental determination was made, FEMA would release sufficient funds from the Alternate Project for NCRA’s on-call engineers to prepare a scope of work. When the NCRA received a letter from FEMA representative, Nancy Ward, on December 22, 2003 requiring a scope of work by March 1, 2004, it was based on the assumption that that environmental clearance would have already taken place by then. He further reported that he would communicate the delay to Ms. Ward.

 

 

F.         CONDUCT OF BUSINESS

 

6.         Consideration of Proposal regarding “Rails with Trails” and Railbanking –

Dan Hauser – City Manager, City of Arcata.

           

            Chair Woolley thanked Mr Hauser for the meeting space for today’s meeting.

 

Railbanking

 

Mr. Hauser went over the concept of creating a “Railbanking” a section of the old Arcata and Madd River Railroad (AMRR) between Arcata and Blue Lakes. He reported that there is currently some confusion regarding the status of the AMRR and whether or not it was abandoned.  The first issue that would need to be addressed before a trail could be created is to determine whether that part of the line was   formally abandoned, and if so, by whom. If it was abandoned by Simpson before the bankruptcy trustee acquired the property, Mr. Hauser stated that there would be some real issues about who benefited and why the court would allow the Eureka Southern to purchase it. Furthermore, that section of the line  was used by the Eureka Southern and the NCRA – if it had been abandoned before that – where was the authority to use it.

 

The objective of his plan, would be to rail bank this part of the line  for potential future use or lease it  to the county or a local non profit to construct a trail system. The ownership and title questions would need to be answered before they could proceed with the process of railbanking and they are asking the NCRA to reach some conclusion on this matter.

 

Rails to Trails

 

Mr. Doby Klass, Public Works Director for the City of Arcata, presented a map indicating where the city would be proposing, through a formal application to the NCRA, to install a trail both next to and on top of the track, depending on the space available. As explained by Mr. Klass, the trail would not be a permanent fixture, but a temporary trail that could be removed when rail service is resumed on the North End.

 

There was a brief discussion regarding the eventual removal of a temporary trail, the funding sources for the project, and permit issues. All of these issues would be addressed when the NCRA receives a formal proposal from the City and resolves to enter into negotiations on the project.

 

Mr. Elias Elias stated his support of the Rails to Trails concept.

 

Mr. Oringer recommended that language be written in any agreement clearly identifying funding sources specifically for the trail removal.

 

Ms. Strickland stated her concern about turning the track into a trail. All though she does support the concept, she urged the board to make sure reverting the trail back to a track is clearly written in any agreement.

 

Mr. Marcus Brown  In reference to the AMRR abandonment  issue, Mr. Brown urged the board to keep the right-of-way under the NCRA’s ownership. He has observed various property owners along the AMRR stating that parts of the line can be reverted back to the owner if the line is not used within a certain time frame. He stated that it was of the utmost importance to keep the line intact. In regards to the Rails with Trails concept, Mr. Brown recommended that the NCRA only consider this proposal as Rails “and” Trails concept.

 

ACTION: Upon motion by Director Hemphill, 2nd by Director Sears, and carried (7-0), the NCRA authorized the City of Arcata to move forward as presented subject to: the guaranteed availability of the right-of-way for freight service, restoration to the railroad’s condition at the time that improvements take place, identifying funding specifically for the trail removal, and indemnifying the NCRA.  

 

Dan Hauser  Mr. Hauser stated that it is critical that the NCRA  retain  the “Y” at Alliance Road to the old North Coast Lumber property if freight, passenger, and excursion  service is to be restored. The “Y” is the only turn around and passing location available.

 

Regarding railbanking and the issue of possible abandonment by Simpson, Director Sears commented that the federal statutes on railbanking state that the railroad be abandoned before it can be rail banked.

 

Without objection from the Board, the Chair moved back to Item G.1after Mr. Hart arrived.

 

G         PRESENTATIONS

            1.)        Sierra Railroad – Mike Hart

                       

Mike Hart  As the new owner of the California Western, Mr Hart was invited to make a presentation regarding Sierra Railroad and it’s plans for the Cal Western. He reported that even though the sale is not final yet, he anticipates the Skunk Train should be running by May of 2004. He also stated that he looks forward to the completion of the FEMA Alternate Project so that he can ship approximately 50 cars to their final destination in Willits. He further stated that he is quite optimistic about passenger service in the area and is currently putting together a marketing plan, which includes Willits, as he believes Willits has been overlooked in the past.

 

Without objection from the board, the chair convened to closed session to accommodate certain members of the public, in regards to Item I- 1.C

 

                                                                                    The board convened into closed session at 11:15 AM

 

I.          CLOSED SESSION

 

1.)        Conference with Legal Counsel – Anticipated Litigation

            Significant Exposure to Litigation (1 case) Government Code 54956.9

           

            C) Receipt of Demand for Quitclaim Deed by Arcata Recycling Center   

 

The board reconvened into open session at 11:30 AM

 

J.         ANNOUNCEMENT OUT OF CLOSED SESSION 

 

The board voted unanimously to direct staff to meet with Arcata Recycling staff to further determine the nature of the proposal, and to determine if there is any common ground between the two parties. The board also reiterated its policy to maintain the thru track. Staff was directed to also tour the location today.

 

            Without objection from the board, the Chair moved to Item H                                                                                                  

H.                STAFF REPORTS

 

1. Executive Director

 

Mitch Stogner introduced Dave Hull of the Humboldt County Harbor District to discuss the Port of Humboldt Bay and the Port of Oakland.

 

Dave Hull   Mr. Hull reported about ongoing discussions regarding partnering with the Port of Oakland and the Port of Humboldt in regards to sharing resources. The Oakland Port, and the Bay Area in general, is growing at such a rapid rate, that it has necessitated the need to look for additional sites and ports to handle the traffic. Mr. Hull also stated that in these discussions, representatives from the Port of Oakland have stated that the railroad has the potential to provide a transportation solution to the Port and that if the rail was operational this partnership would be much further along.

 

There was discussion regarding the type of materials moving inbound and outbound of the port and  potential traffic for the railroad. Mr. Hull also stated that there is a Federal program called the Short Sea Shipping Initiative, which actively looks for alternatives to trucking freight on the highways.

 

2. Legal Counsel

 

Mr Neary alerted the board to a potential agenda item at a future meeting; a standstill agreement with an existing passenger operator. Chair Woolley directed the Operator Committee to take it under consideration when the time comes.

 

                                                                            The board convened back into closed session at 11:50 am

 

I.                   CLOSED SESSION

 

1.)        Conference with Legal Counsel – Anticipated Litigation

            Significant Exposure to Litigation (2 cases) Government Code 54956.9

 

            A         Receipt of written communication from NWPRA threatening litigation.

            B          Receipt of Claim pursuant to Tort Claims Act filed by Northwestern    

                        Railway Company

2.)                Conference with Legal Counsel – Potential Litigation

Pursuant to Government Code Section 54596.9 (1 case)          

 

                                                                        The board reconvened into open session at 2:10 pm

 

J.                  ANNOUNCEMENT OUT OF CLOSED SESSION

 

On items I.1 a – b, the board gave direction to legal counsel.

 

On item I.2, the Board voted unanimously to authorize Mitch Stogner to indicate to the California State Attorney General’s office that if there is a way that alternate project money can be used, in reasonable proportions, for Consent Decree compliance without complicating the environmental process, the NCRA is open to it.

 

The board also authorized Chris Neary to communicate to Deputy Attorney General, Rose Fua, that the NCRA believes it has reached the end of the road on the Caltrans and TCRP process, but that the NCRA is willing to continue on that process. Furthermore, the NCRA is seeking alternative means to fund the Waste and Debris Project and Legal Counsel is authorized to keep the Attorney General’s office posted on these projects.

 

The board also directed Mitch Stogner and John Woolley to make contact with Congressman Thompson's staff to urge the completion of the environmental process.

 

The board also authorized Chris Neary to waive the attorney client privilege, so that he is free to communicate with Rose Fua in regards to any investigation she wishes to pursue in relationship with the Consent Decree.

 

 

K.                MATTERS FROM THE BOARD 

None 

 

L.         ANNOUNCEMENT OF NEXT MEETING

            February 18, 2004

                Willits City Council Chambers

                111 East Commercial Street, Willits, Mendocino County

 

M.       ADJOURNMENT

              The board adjourned at 2:15 PM