By Cameron Rasmusson
Idaho Conservation League is formally requesting an extension to the comment period on BNSF Railway’s proposed second rail bridge.
In a letter addressed to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the conservation organization asks that the comment period be extended by at least 120 days and provide at least three public hearings.
“Both the probable impacts and substantial public interest associated with BNSF’s proposal merit an extension to the public comment period and the scheduling of public hearings,” the request reads. “Specifically, Bonner County would likely experience a wide range of significant direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts associated with this proposal.”
Conservation advocates justify the request by citing recent train derailments in North Idaho and Northwest Montana. These incidents, they say, amplify local concerns that a train derailment over Lake Pend Oreille or other local waterways could present an ecological, economical and public health catastrophe for the region.
The Idaho Conservation League request also points to resolutions passed by local government bodies that request local involvement in any proposals that would increase local train traffic. A 2012 Sandpoint resolution calls for the Army Corps of Engineers to prepare a full environmental impact statement of train traffic in the region. It also requests a scoping hearing in Sandpoint to detail the extent of the environmental review and calls for the Corps’ involvement in crafting an emergency response plan should an environmental disaster occur.
The request follows news last week that BNSF Railway had filed its permit application with the Army Corps of Engineers for a second rail bridge across Lake Pend Oreille. The second bridge is a response to an anticipated increase in train traffic, which, by some estimates, will double by 2035.