Marin to join NIMBY Novato suit against NCRA freight revival
- Published Tuesday, November 27, 2007, by the Marin Independent Journal
Marin to join lawsuit over freight rail plans
By Brad Breithaupt
Marin County is jumping aboard Novato's lawsuit aimed at slowing the
return of freight trains through the north end of the county.
After a 4-0 vote in a closed-door session with county lawyers
Tuesday, Marin supervisors publicly announced the county will file
an amicus brief, declaring its support for Novato's lawsuit against
the North Coast Railroad Authority and its plans to revive rail from
Humboldt County to Novato, where trains would head east to Lombard
in Napa County.
Marin Supervisor Steve Kinsey said the county's action is not a
stand against the return of freight trains. But the county supports
Novato's argument that the rail authority should halt work repairing
and upgrading its tracks until it completes an environmental review
of its 316-mile rail plan.
That review could lead to a limit on the number of trains and hours
of operation as well as requirements that so-called "quiet zones" be
installed at crossings, Kinsey said.
"Quiet zones" involve extensive safety measures that permit trains
to roll through crossings without sounding their warning horn.
Marin County Counsel Patrick Faulkner said the county has legal
standing in the case as one of the Novato crossings, near the
StoneTree Golf Club, is in the unincorporated area east of downtown.
Residents of the Green Point and StoneTree areas could be affected
by the revival of freight service, he said.
NCRA has said restoration of freight service could result in as many
as 32 trains pulling as many as 60 cars each through Novato every
Novato, in its case, argued that freight trains would bring traffic
problems, safety hazards and noise to town. Novato's lawsuit is
scheduled to be heard by Marin County Judge James Ritchie on Dec. 11.
The judge in October ruled that NCRA could continue its construction,
pending the court hearing.
NCRA's lawyer, Chris Neary of Willits, said he has not yet seen the
He stressed that the rail agency is in the middle of preparing a
$2.4 million environmental impact report on its plans. That report,
which will include an analysis of possible "quiet zones" and freight
traffic, should be released for public review in May, Neary said.
The Marin board on Tuesday was urged to join Novato's suit by several
local and North Coast environmental groups, among them the Marin
Conservation League, the Garberville-based Friends of the Eel River
and the Marin-based Watershed Preservation Network.
Those environmental groups and others also announced they plan to
file an amicus brief in support of Novato's lawsuit.
A woman with the single name of Nadananda, executive director of
Friends of the Eel River, said her group is worried that restoration
of freight service would lead to further mining along a Trinity
County stretch of the North Coast river.
She told the county board that freight service would start "the
domino effect" of environmental damage to the river.
Supervisor Judy Arnold, a former NCRA board member, supported the
"This will help Novato get 'quiet zones,'" she said.
Kinsey said the county action calls for full disclosure and public
study of NCRA's plans.
The rail agency, he said, has moved forward with upgrades without
first fully analyzing the cumulative effects of freight. Instead,
it has evaluated it in segments, he said.
"We want to stand for a full CEQA process," Kinsey said, referring
to the California Environmental Quality Act, which requires
environmental review of projects.
Arnold said the NCRA's environmental process is important to winning
local voter support of the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District's
plans to launch a commuter train along the same rail line.
"The SMART people want to see CEQA adhered to because it gives them
a black eye," she said.
Novato City Manager Dan Keen welcomed the county to Novato's lawsuit.
"That's great news. I think it does help," he said. The county's
support is a sign that potential problems involving the revival of
freight extend beyond Novato city limits, Keen said.
"I still do not see how the city of Novato benefits from freight,"
Neary said Novato filed its lawsuit too late to challenge the
agency's construction projects.
"Many of Novato's arguments on CEQA are being made too late. When
it comes to 'quiet zones,' it's too early," he said.
Read more Novato stories at the IJ's Novato page.
Contact Brad Breithaupt via e-mail at bbreithaupt@...
[BATN: See also:
Editorial: Marin Co. NCRA rail board picks ignored the public
Novato to appeal ruling allowing NCRA rail repairs to continue
Marin Co. Supes appoint new Novato stooges to NCRA board
Letters: NIMBY Novato vs. NCRA freight trains, SMART
Comment: SMART needs to study increased NCRA freight trains
Novato sued for secrecy violations in its suit against NCRA
Judge rejects NIMBY Novato's bid to block NCRA track repairs
Novato sued over actions leading to anti-rail NCRA lawsuit
Marin Co. rail foes Arnold, Leland resign from NCRA board
Comment: NCRA boss blasts NIMBY Novato on anti-train lawsuit
Über-NIMBY Novato protests NCRA rail crossing improvements
Comment: Anti-rail NIMBY Novato explains its lawsuit against NCRA
Anti-SMART NIMBY Novato sues over NCRA track repairs
NIMBY Novato sues NCRA to derail planned freight trains
Novato sues to derail NCRA plan to resume freight train service
Column: Long-dead NCRA's freight plans complicate SMART EIR
SMART to update EIR; re-vote planned for November 2008
Comment: SMART or not -- freight trains coming to Novato
Comment: SMART foes work to whip up freight train fears