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There remain many unresolved legal issues. NYS DEC

Green group, state officials, question train line into Adirondack High Peaks

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A green group in the Adirondacks is trying to block the reopening of an industrial railroad line that stretches into the High Peaks region of the Park.

Protect the Adirondacks says the move would violate an easement that allows the railroad to operate in an area designated as part of the "forever wild" forest preserve. As Brian Mann reports, state officials have also raised questions about the project.

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Brian Mann
Adirondack Bureau Chief

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CLARIFICATION:  Protect the Adirondacks' submissions to Federal authorities are not part of formal litigation or a lawsuit filed by the group.

The Saratoga and North Creek Railway wants to buy and then reopen a 29-mile mile stretch of line that would link North Creek, where a tourist train now operates, to the old Tahawus mine in Newcomb. They would first have to acquire the spur from NL Industries.

But in legal briefs filed last month with the Federal Surface Transportation Board, Protect the Adirondacks argued that NL Industries doesn’t own clear right-of-way to the track. According to the green group, part of the railroad was laid through the protected forest preserve during the emergency of World War 2 and the legal status of the route has remained in dispute ever since. They also argue that the track would be much costlier to rebuild than the company indicated to Federal officials.

Those arguments led the Surface Transportation Board to reject the railroad’s request for fast-track approval of the line. In a decision November 23, Federal officials wrote that the case is "not routine and non-controversial." Federal officials also questioned whether there is a demand for railroad service to the old Tahawus mine.

Concerns were also raised in legal briefs filed by the Department of Environmental Conservation and first reported in the Glens Falls Post Star. Rob Davies, head of DEC’s division of lands and forests wrote December 15 that there "remain many unresolved legal issues."

The Ohio company that owns Saratoga and North Creek Railway hopes to ship valuable tailings from the Adirondacks.  Those tailings are now being hauled by truckers. According to a report in the Albany Times-Union, the railroad has appealed the case.

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