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Northern California legislators say plan would revive long-defunct line to move coal for export

By | September 8, 2021

STB filing offers few details on plan to restore Northwestern Pacific line to Eureka, but lawmakers say they’ll work to block effort

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Map of the former Northwestern Pacific
Map of the former Northwestern Pacific
A North Coast Railroad Authority map shows the route of the former Northwestern Pacific (NCRA)

EUREKA, Calif. — Northern California legislators are decrying an effort they say would revive a long-defunct portion of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad as part of a plan to export coal from the Port of Humboldt Bay, Eureka’s lightly used commercial port.

The Eureka Times-Standard reports the plan from the North Coast Railroad Co. came to light in an Aug. 16 filing with the Surface Transportation Board. That filing was in opposition of a request by the North Coast Railroad Authority to railbank 320 miles of former NWP route to allow construction of the proposed Great Redwood Trail.

In its filing, the North Coast Railroad Co. identifies its intention to acquire the rail line “and restore it to operating condition to support future, high-volume traffic flows. For the moment, it is sufficient to indicate that NCRCo, capitalized to the tune of $1.2 billion, will at the appropriate point … provide detailed evidence of need for the line as a railroad transportation asset, and shipper support for the same (and commitments to use the line).”

The rail authority’s executive director, Mitch Stogner, told the newspaper the plan was “absurd,” saying his agency’s estimate was that it would cost more than $2.4 billion to restore the line, which would remain prone to the landslides and washouts which led to it being shut down in 1995.

Two legislators, U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael, Calif.) and State Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg, Calif.), told the website Lost Coast Outpost that they had determined the North Coast Railroad Co. was a creation of coal companies seeking to transport Powder River Basin coal. And while they doubted the plan was feasible, both said they would work to block the proposal.

McGuire, in a press release, termed the company a “secret, clandestine operation — hiding behind an anonymous LLC in Wyoming” that “wants to ship million and millions of tons of coal,” and termed the secrecy behind the project “completely offensive.” McGuire said he would be announcing legislation to block the project.

16 thoughts on “Northern California legislators say plan would revive long-defunct line to move coal for export

  1. I’m all for this one. Anything to irritate and defeat those _____ing _______s trying to destroy the coal industry is okay with me! 👍🏻😁😎

  2. A fake conspiracy theory? It would be far more economical to ship the coal from existing facilities in Vancouver. I was surprised (from the NRHS tour about 8 ? years ago) that the reopened Ely copper mine was trucking ore to the UP, who would ship it toVancouver for export to South Korea and processing (China incidentally does much of the world’s ore processing with much of the ore coming from elsewhere). The NWP failed not just from earth movement but from slow traffic; a truck could get a load of lumber down to the Bay Area in half a day, much much faster than was possible on the NWP. That area of California has some of the world’s highest erosion rates; where the NWP crossed an Eel River subsidiary stream you could see the track was bowed downstream toward the Eel River.

    1. The simplest solution, but one that would have the idiot environmentalists in an uproar, would be to switch the line from the side of the river it’s on now to the opposite bank. In the highest slide prone areas there’s much more room to create a stable roadbed on the west side of the Eel, the biggest problem though besides morons(as I call them) is the Scotia Lumber Co., there property would need to be traversed to do that. My guess is those two state legislators also happen to be environmentalists and are not at all interested in creating jobs for a depressed area(that neither of them represent of course).

  3. It is better that coal be shipped by rail than by truck. I do not want to share highways with convoys of coal-hauling trucks.
    With regards to erosion and landslides, retaining walls would be the solution.

    1. It’s best that coal not be shipped AT ALL. Thermal coal like Powder River basin coal needs to stop being mined and burned. It’s literally destroying the environment. Severe weather driven by climate change is already with us. How long do we keep ignoring it? Until 80% of the Greenland ice sheet is gone?

      There’s no way this is economically feasible (nor will California allow it for this purpose). Coal is dying. And good riddance.

  4. As much as I would love to see the Northwestern Pacific live again, I don’t see a good business case for rebuilding and maintaining a long an difficult line running in a flood-prone canyon. Like it or not, coal as a fuel is on its way out.

  5. How ever you feel about coal, there is no way that this line could be rebuilt to standards that would allow coal shipment from that port for the amount of money they are talking about. Most of the right of way north of Santa Rosa is ruined and the part north of Willits would require rebuilding from the road bed up and in most cases creating entire new roadbed, grades etc. It will never happen.

  6. There is such a thing as mailing via slow boat to China. This plan not only sounds like a conspiracy theory, but even getting the coal to the NWP in the first place would take forever.

  7. You don’t even need politicians to get involved (whichever party). This proposal will be dead on arrival once the actual costs are presented to NCR, just like coal is a dying commodity and more companies will eventually will walk away from it.

  8. Forget coal, I want an uncongested west coast port to get containers in and LH/LPG out. Besides, Doesn’t CA want to eventually extended SMART up this line? Freight will pay the way. 99% of the warmers don’t even know what a Milankovitch Cycle is let alone how to read a weather map. North American glaciers have been in full retreat since before Cook arrived on the west coast with the British in the 1700’s. No one to blame for that I guess.

  9. NWP was a one commodity one direction railroad several hundred miles long. When available forest seemed unlimited (they weren’t) and 100+ car trains could run on a daily basis it was possible, until the periodic –every 10 to 20 year floods. So now someone wants to rebuild it for a dying one commodity twice as heavy train? Doesn’t make much sense.

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