Thursday, April 21, 2016

Shabbona Residents join together to address concerns about proposed railroad

Great Lakes RR's proposed route goes through Indian Reserve.


Editor’s note: This is the second in a three-part series on the proposed Great Lake Basin Railroad project.
MORRIS – A proposed railroad line that would cut through prime farmland in Grundy County would, if built as recommended, also go through land that was deeded in the 1800s to the chief of the Potawatomi.
The route of the proposed privately funded $8 billion Great Lakes Basin Railroad has the line crossing the Illinois River from Erienna Township landing in a unpopulated grove of trees before it continues on toward Mazon.
“Where it is coming across the river is 20 acres of land that is called the Shabbona Reservation on the plat map,” Norman Township Supervisor Art Kleinfeldt said.
Kleinfeldt, a nearby resident to the historical reservation, said he doesn’t believe the railroad can or should be allowed to take property owned by the descendants of Shabbona.
A handwritten deed filed for record in September 1854, five years before Shabbona died, is included in the Grundy County tax assessor’s office file on the property. The deed states: “This grant is to be held in trust for the use and benefit of Shabena (commonly spelled Shabbona locally) Indian Chief of the Potawotomie [sic] tribe and his heirs forever, the use rents and profits thereof to be enjoyed by the said Shabena and his heirs exclusively.”
The property has held a tax-exempt status since the time it was given to the chief, and was renewed as tax exempt in 1993 with the State of Illinois.
The Great Lakes Basin Railroad project would run 275 miles from La Porte, Indiana, to Milton, Wisconsin, cutting through Grundy and LaSalle counties locally. Those spearheading the effort filed paperwork in March with the federal Surface Transportation Board, which triggered a series of public hearings, called scoping meetings, and the beginnings of an environmental impact study. The last such meeting is Thursday in Seneca.
Frank Patton, founder and managing partner of Great Lakes Basin Transportation Inc., said Monday that he couldn’t comment while scoping meetings are ongoing on whether he knew the land was owned by descendants of Chief Shabbona or what he would do to avoid the area.
Patton wants to build the line to expedite freight movement by providing an interconnection for existing Class I railroads that operate in the Chicago area.
The proposed route would enter Grundy County south of South Wilmington and East Brooklyn and cut northwest of Mazon, crossing the Illinois River east of Seneca. It would enter LaSalle County for a short stretch in the unincorporated northeast corner of the county.
According to the Great Lakes Basin website, the proposed route takes into account the location of towns, residential areas, greenfield territory and the locations where interchanges with other railroads will work.
Kleinfeldt said he has also heard from other residents that there are unmarked cemeteries in the township that don’t appear on any maps that may end up in the path of the railroad.
“I know there is a Norman Township Cemetery, but I’m not sure where it is and I think it’s overgrown now,” he said. “One farmer said there are headstones behind his house that are knocked over and some have been moved. I think that is the Norman Cemetery.”
Residents come together to fight the railroad
Local residents against the building of the railroad have formed a group called Grundy County Against the GLB RR. The have made signs, created a Facebook page to get information out, and are holding meetings to explain to the public what a scoping meeting is, and how they can address their concerns.
“I went to the meeting in Manteno, and all they had was a map. There is no one there from the railroad to answer questions,” said Brad Male, who formed the Facebook page. “My biggest concern is eminent domain and safety.”
What Male feels most people aren’t aware of is the scoping meeting’s purpose is to look at environmental impacts of the proposed project. It is not a place for residents to ask questions and address concerns with Great Lakes Basin Transportation Inc.
David Navecky, an environmental protection specialist with the STB’s Environmental Analysis Office, said at the Manteno scoping meeting the goal of the gatherings is to hear from landowners so he and the office can gauge the environmental impact of the project.
Male said he hopes others interested in keeping the railroad out of Grundy County will become involved with the group, which has more than 370 members on its Facebook page.
Eminent Domain discussed
Eminent domain also is a concern of Nick and Michelle Weber of Mazon, whose small 10-acre farm sits in the path of the proposed railroad.
Grundy County Chairman David Welter met with the Weber family and said he is against eminent domain for private corporations, but, like residents, he is in the dark on the proposed plans for the railroad to pass through Grundy County.
“I haven’t had him reach out to me or the county,” Welter said. “It’s my understanding he came two or three years ago to talk to the GEDC [Grundy Economic Development Council], but we’ve not heard from him again.”
Welter said once enough information is gathered, he will discuss it with county board members to see if they want to pass a resolution regarding the project.
Patton said he would rather deal directly with the landowners, but he would resort to eminent domain if that’s what needed to be done to complete the project.
“If a landowner is not interested in selling to us I will go to their neighbor and see if they are interested,” Patton said. “If no one is interested in selling, we will have to consider eminent domain.”
Residents are invited to file scoping comments regarding the proposed Great Lakes Basin Railroad. Comments are due by June 15. Please refer to Docket No. FD 35952 in all correspondence, including e-filings, addressed to the Board.
• Scoping comments may be submitted electronically at by clicking on the “E–FILING” link on the home page and then selecting “Environmental Comments.” Accounts are not needed to file environmental comments electronically, and comments can be typed into the text box provided or attached as a file. Anyone having difficulties with the e-filing process should call 202-245-0350.
• The public is invited to attend scoping meetings. The one closest to Grundy County is scheduled for 5:30 to 8 p.m. April 21 at Seneca High School Auditorium, 307 E. Scott St. The meetings will include an open house format for the first hour, followed by a presentation by the STB’s Office of Environmental Analysis and an opportunity for public comments and questions, STB officials said.
• Scoping comments also can be submitted by mail to: Dave Navecky, Surface Transportation Board, 395 E Street SW, Washington, DC 20423-0001, Docket No. FD 35952.
Source: Surface Transportation Board

Lake County IN votes against Great Lakes Basis RR

CROWN POINT — Beginning June 1, companies that want to bid on future Lake County public works construction projects costing in excess of $150,000 must submit a long list of pre-qualification documents.
In a 2-0 vote at Wednesday’s meeting, the Lake County Commissioners gave their blessing to a new county ordinance that “establishes responsible bidding practices and submission requirements,” said Commission Attorney John Dull. “This is a big, big, big, big change.”
The ordinance doesn’t affect bids now being advertised, Dull said. That includes bids the Purdue Extension/Soil and Water Conservation Project proposed to convert about 6 acres of green space in front of the Lake County Government Center complex. Those bids are due prior to 9:30 a.m. May 18 in the Lake County auditor’s office.

Lake officials plan to break ground later in 2016 on this $2.5 million office complex and to sell the remaining acres fronting Main Street (Ind. 55) to a developer for private offices and retail business space.
Creation of a Cumulative Bridge Fund and a Cumulative Drainage Fund also came under scrutiny by Commissioner Mike Repay, D-3rd District, and Commissioner Gerry Scheub, D-2nd District.

Dull explained the Lake County Commission was the only governmental body that could establish a Cumulative Bridge Fund that would add .009 cent per $100 of assessed value to property taxes and raise $2 million.

The commissioners set a public hearing about establishing such a bridge fund at their next meeting on May 18. The 10 a.m. meeting likely will take place in the Lake County Government Center auditorium, Scheub said.
A Cumulative Drainage Fund would raise $1.6 million by adding .01 cent per $100 of assessed value to property taxes, Dull said. This matter will come before the Lake County Council.
Dull also told Repay and Scheub that the Commissioners Tax Sale held in March raised $1.7 million.

In other action, both Repay and Scheub voted for the County of Lake Resolution No. 16-06 that opposes construction and operation of the Great Lakes Basin Railroad, an approximately 278-mile rail line with up to six tracks.

Above is from:

DAILY HERALD---Great Lakes Basis RR: for suburbanites, the plan hints at some incredible possible benefits:

What if freight trains skirted suburbs via new rural railroad?

  • Cars wait for a freight train to pass on Route 14 in Barrington. A proposal would send freight trains on a massive new railroad route outside the entire suburban area.
      Cars wait for a freight train to pass on Route 14 in Barrington. A proposal would send freight trains on a massive new railroad route outside the entire suburban area.
    daily herald file photo, 2013

By Dave Gathman
Daily Herald Correspondent

In the 21st century, the plan by Great Lakes Transportation Inc. is rare to the point of being unbelievable: Building an $8 billion, 278-mile-long, two-track freight railroad through northeastern Illinois.
• Fewer -- or maybe even no -- potentially explosive crude-oil trains rolling through crowded suburban and city neighborhoods, such as downtown Aurora.
• Fewer Metra and Amtrak passenger trains held up by "freight train interference" as trains on Chicago's overcrowded rail system pile up at various interchanges and rail yard entrances.
• Fewer semitrailer trucks on Chicago-area expressways.
But most of the more than 400 people who showed up Tuesday morning at a federal "scoping" hearing in Belvidere weren't thinking about convenience to people living 50 miles to the east in the suburbs. Many wore stickers showing their opposition to the project, called the Great Lakes Basin Rail Line.
Instead, they told the U.S. Surface Transportation Board's environmental studies staff that such a railroad would split up farms that have been owned by their families for 100 years. That it would threaten underground water supplies with pollution from spilled chemicals, would slow local ambulance crews and firefighters, would take the world's best soil out of agricultural production, would lower their property values, could cause drainage problems on their farmland and would fill their quiet rural townships with train noise.
Great Lakes Basin Transportation Inc. is headed by former software entrepreneur Frank Patton and reportedly is supported by 14 investors. The proposed railroad is designed to give the area's six "Class I" railroads -- BNSF, Union Pacific, Norfolk Southern, CSX, Canadian National and Canadian Pacific, plus the small Wisconsin & Southern Railway -- a way to send long-distance freight trains around metropolitan Chicago rather than through it.
The former Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway, bought by Canadian National Railway in a hotly debated deal in 2009, is a one-track line that runs from Waukegan to Gary via Barrington, Hoffman Estates, Bartlett, Wayne, West Chicago and Aurora. It also connects the six big railroads' various Chicago-area lines. If the other railroads were spokes in a wheel whose center is downtown Chicago, the former EJ&E would be the rim of that wheel.
Before CN took over and started using the EJ&E to connect the various spoke lines CN owns, the EJ&E was nicknamed "Chicago's Outer Belt."
The proposed Great Lakes Basin Line could be called "Chicago's Outer Outer Belt," another rim connecting all those spokes. It would be built through farm country, purposely bypassing cities and towns but intersecting with other railroads in more than 25 places.
The line would begin in northwest Indiana, head west between Kankakee and Joliet, then go north to west of Morris, Yorkville and DeKalb. South of Rockford, it would split in two, with one branch heading west of Rockford and one branch reaching north through the Belvidere area into southern Wisconsin.
David Navecky, an STB environmental analyst who emceed Tuesday's hearing, said the board had already held six hearings and three more were scheduled -- in Rockford Tuesday night, in Rochelle Wednesday and in Seneca on Thursday. An "online hearing" also will be held on April 27, and the board will accept written comments through June 15.
The next step is an environmental impact statement, which will recommend whether the full board should approve the project, recommend "mitigation" for specific environmental problems if the project is approved, and perhaps recommend alternative routes. That will be followed by more public hearings.
It will probably be two to three years before the impact statement is finally finished, Navecky said.
The full board then must decide whether to give Great Lakes Transportation a green light to start acquiring land and laying track.
After Tuesday's hearing, Navecky said Great Lakes estimates the line could handle up to 110 trains a day. But he said the STB still needs to hear estimates about how many trains would be using each segment of the line. He said the board also has not yet received comments on the proposal from any of the existing railroads that would be its customers

County Board Retreat to draft a written response to Great Lake Basis Railraod Project

As noted by this posting from The Rhubard--on Wednesday, April 20, 2016 the Boone County Board decided that they will have a "retreat" to  gather concerns regarding the Great Lake Basis Railroad project and draft a formal response to the Surface Transportation Board.
NEWS ALERT!-Boone County Board meeting status in regards to the Great Lakes Basin Railroad.
This is a brief summary from tonight's meeting.
The Boone County Board tonight stated it is seeking comments and facts from Boone County residents in regards to the Great Lakes Basin Railroad (GBLR). If you spoke at the Surface Transportation Board meeting on April 19 and have something in writing please submit it to the county board. Any and all information regarding the GLBR should be submitted as soon as possible to Boone County Board members.
The Boone County Board is planning a retreat in May where all the information collected will be discussed. The goal of the retreat will be to draft a letter of concerns and submit to the Surface Transportation Board. Discussion tonight did not include whether the board would issue a statement in favor or against GLBR or if the letter will be that of only Boone County concerns.
Additional information will be published as soon as The Rhubarb has confirmation on dates and times. Again, the public is encouraged to attend the public meetings or to call their county board members.
This is a developing story. Please stay tuned for further updates of meeting dates and times.
The link below is to Boone County and provides committee information as well as Boone County Board member contact information. If you have any questions, please contact the Boone County Administration Office at 815-547-4770.