W A C O

Willow Area Community Organization

Ad hoc committee

The Railroad Corridor committee was recognized as an ad-hoc committee of WACO at the April meeting, with Shae Kosmolsky as chair. In October Dana Hills replaced Shae as Chair.

News

Draft Environmental Impact Statement (March 2010)

Click image for larger view

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Proposed Alternatives
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Local Segments

Steve Charles has summarized content that might interest Willow residents—

You can analyze the Draft here. (It’s 1100 pages, a little intimidating)

Or, if this is too heavy here are some points below that address the Willow Alternatives:

The biggest factor going against the Willow Alternative is Section 4(f) described here:

Section 4(f) of the U.S. Department of Transportation Act of 1966 and 6(f) of the Lands & Water Conservation Fund Act mandate the Secretary of Transportation and Secretary of Interior not approve a project that uses either 4(f) or 6(f) lands and restricts the use of funding from USDOT agencies unless the impacts are de minimis or there is feasible alternative.  The Willow Alternative has 5 areas that qualify for 4(f) status and that will be bisected by the RR:

Willow Creek SRA  (If you haven’t looked at the map, the RR bisects the heart of the SRA)

  • Nancy Lake SRA
  • Little Susitna Recreational River
  • Susitna Flats State Game Refuge
  • West Gateway Trails System  (good thing we got those easements in there)

Chapter 13.2 of the DEIS discusses 4(f), and compares the various alternatives with respect to impacts on public park or recreation areas, and refuges.  The Willow alternative has by far the greatest impact on 4(f) resources (see page 13.2-25).  The Mac West Willow alternative would affect the greatest number of trails (9), the longest length of recreational trails (3395 feet), and the ROW would affect the greatest number park, recreation, and refuge acreage (217).  Further, train operation would cause “severe noise impacts” to 2765 acres 4(f) properties.  This is contrasted with the Mac East - Houston South and the Mac East – Big Lake alternatives which would result in severe noise impacts on zero 4(f) properties

Section 6(f) of the LWCFA also restricts Federal funding where public lands have received LWCFA funding.

Within the study area, this only applies to the Nancy Lake SRA. The DEIS states that if the Willow Alternatives are chosen, the border of the SRA can be moved east to avoid the Railroad Corridor. This is an impractical solution that is likely to generate strong public resistance and would have to go through the State Legislature.

In addition to these direct impacts to 4(f) and 6(f) lands, the Willow alternative would adversely affect the recreational character and enjoyment of surrounding public lands according to the Summary Chapter (S.6 ) as described below:

S.6.3.1     Vegetation Resources.  This section states the Willow Segments will have the greatest amount of vegetative clearing of all the alternatives, resulting in a long term impact for forest communities, even with restoration.  In some areas the impact may be permanent.  The Mac East Big Lake and Houston South Alternates will have the fewest.

S.6.3.2     Wildlife Resources.  Construction of the rail spur along either of the two Willow Alternatives will result in the greatest amount of wildlife habitat loss compared to the other options.  Again, the Mac East Big Lake and Houston 

South Alternates will have the fewest acres lost for wildlife habitat.

S.6.3.3     Fisheries Resources.  According to this summary, both Willow Alternates will have the greatest number of important fish bearing streams to cross.  In total number of crossings, Mac West Big Lake will have the fewest.  As stated in the Draft, all the crossings within the study area will result in alteration and loss of stream and riparian habitats.

S.6.4    Cultural and Historic Resources.  The largest amount of known and potentially significant cultural resources are located within the two Willow Alternatives, whereas the fewest are found in the Mac West Houston South and North routes.   (FYI, there s a very significant archeological area of prehistory SW of Red Shirt Lake. Also, David Navecky mentioned to me that much of the study area may eligible for listing as a dog mushing “cultural landscape” in the National Registry of Historic Places.)

S.6.7    Noise and Vibration.  According to the Study, both Willow Alternatives will be impacted by noise, using FRA/FTA methods on Section 4(f) lands.

No other alternatives in the study area will be have noise effecting publicly managed lands.

The is a very, very short list of the DEIS analysis. The research done is extremely thorough and much of it is fascinating reading if one has the time.

See also http://www.portmacrail.com.

Joint Resolution with the City of Houston

At the December 1, 2008 meeting the Board approved a joint resolution with Houston favoring the Houston Route. A scanned image of the resolution may be found here (pdf, 447KB).