Feds may make decision on Tahawus RR appeal soon

— On Nov. 11, 2011, the environmental group Protect the Adirondacks filed a petition with the STB protesting the railway’s notice of exemption. In the fall, the Saratoga Railway bought the Tahawus line from NL Industries, and the right-of-way travels through private and public lands, including state Forest Preserve on the Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest.

Protect the Adirondacks listed seven issues about Saratoga’s exemption status, including the firm belief that an environmental review and a historic assessment must be performed.

“The Tahawus rail spur was abandoned 22 years ago,” wrote John Caffrey, co-chair of the Protect the Adirondacks Conservation Advocacy Committee. “Further, court records and deeds show that the ROW easements on the Forest Preserve were taken by eminent domain during a wartime emergency, strictly for the purpose of constructing a rail spur over which to haul ilmenite ore from Tahawus. These ROW easements cannot legally be used for any other purpose.”

On Nov. 23, 2011, STB Office of Proceedings Acting Director Julia Farr filed a decision rejecting the Saratoga Railway’s request for an exemption.

On Dec. 2, 2011, Saratoga sent a letter to the STB appealing Farr’s decision.

Letters galore

Since the Saratoga Railway filed its appeal, there have been many municipalities, politicians, agencies and chambers of commerce filing letters with the STB supporting the company and its quest to operate the Tahawus line. NL Industries even write two letters of support, as did the town of Johnsburg.

“The Town of Johnsburg fully supports the preservation and rehabilitation of all surviving rail infrastructure in the Adirondacks that will facilitate the creation of badly needed employment in this highly distressed area of New York, tap the use of rail as a green form of transportation for freight, restore historic infrastructure to promote tourism and further bolster the sustainability of our communities,” stated the town’s Jan. 17 resolution.

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