ICL requests county support for BNSF Environmental Impact Statement

By Lyndsie Kiebert
Reader Staff

Idaho Conservation League Conservation Associate Matt Nykiel requested Bonner County commissioners send a letter to several federal permitting agencies requesting they require BNSF produce an environmental impact statement in regards to the second rail bridge proposed to cross Lake Pend Oreille.

Nykiel spoke Tuesday during the public comment period of the commissioner’s regular Tuesday business meeting.

“The construction alone could impact our county in a lot of ways,” he said, noting an EIS would create a better idea of what those impacts might be.

He offered a couple draft letters based on letters the board has sent in the past regarding similar issues. Some concerns listed in Nykiel’s drafts include safety, tax burden and potential public health impacts. The drafts are addressed to the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Federal Railroad Administration and Surface Transportation Board — all agencies involved in permitting the second rail bridge.

It is unclear if or when the commissioners will act on ICL’s request, seeing as discussion and decisions do not take place at the time of public comment. The Reader will continue to follow this story.

The deadline to submit comments on BNSF’s proposal is April 30.

Learn more about the proposal Friday, April 6 at noon at the Beardmore Building in Priest River. The Lakes Commission will be discussing rail safety, emergency response and the proposal as a whole.

There will be two Idaho Department of Lands public hearing sessions regarding the second rail bridge, both on May 23. The first is at 8 a.m. at the Ponderay Events Center, and the second is at 6 p.m. in the Sandpoint Middle School gym.

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