Boone County Board OKs letter opposing Great Lakes Basin Railroad
By Adam Poulisse
Posted May. 19, 2016 at 12:01 AM
BELVIDERE — The Boone County Board tonight voted 10-1 to send a letter to the federal Surface Transportation Board opposing the construction of the proposed $8 billion Great Lakes Basin Railroad.
The three-page document, prepared by County Administrator Ken Terrinoni, outlines objections to the project in such areas as land loss, safety, water quality, geology and soils, noise and insurance costs.
“The Boone County community’s livability, because we are the environment, will suffer if the (railroad) route is approved,” the letter reads.
The board considered two letters. It rejected a document distributed Saturday that is not as detailed when listing the county's objections to the project.
District 1 Board Member Sherry Giesecke cast the lone dissenting vote against the letter the board approved, noting her opposition was less about substance than style.
“The category heads that we used in that original letter came more from the heart," she said. "They were more intuitive of residents and the various people who have spoken.”
Last week, the board announced its official opposition to the project during a County Board retreat. Board members and county residents voiced concerns about the proposed 275-mile railroad that would transport cargo through the county as part of a bypass of the Chicago area.
Tonight's meeting, like previous meetings about the proposed rail line, included plenty of lively discussion about an issue that has produced widespread opposition in rural areas of the county.
“I think everyone wanted the content (of the letter) to be forwarded, and that’s really happened," County Board Chairman Bob Walberg said.
County resident Laurie Boseman of Citizens Against the Great Lakes Basin Railroad Project said the letter is “a tiny step forward.”
“I don’t see why they have to nitpick about a letter,” she said.
District 2 Board Member Cathy Ward lobbied the board unsuccessfully to approve an official resolution in opposition to the project. A resolution, she said, would have more impact.
“I would think, with the response of the community, we want as strong (a position) as possible,” Ward said. “They’ve told us many times and in many ways that they want to make sure the message is very clear.”
Other affected areas, such as LaSalle County, Illinois, and Lake County, Indiana, have drafted resolutions in opposition to the project. Last week, the Rock County Board in southern Wisconsin approved an official resolution stating the 200-foot wide rail corridor would remove 570 acres of prime farmland, and would result in a $608,615 annual loss in agricultural production.
Rock County Board Supervisor Alan Sweeney asked the Boone County Board to participate in a joint analysis of the project that would include a recommendation that the rail line use existing railroads. The Boone board didn't act on Sweeney's request.
“It’s up to both Boone County Board and Rock County Board whether to participate together,” he said. “It was the first step.”