Saratoga County may add its voice to those supporting the Saratoga and North Creek Railway’s desire to resume freight service between Saratoga Springs and a mine in the Adirondacks.
The railway, which last summer launched what has been a successful tourist train between Saratoga Springs and North Creek, is seeking federal approval to haul minerals out of the old NL Industries mines in Tahawus, in Essex County.
The proposed reopening of the 30 miles of disused tracks between North Creek and Tahawus has drawn an objection from Protect the Adirondacks!, a nonprofit conservation group.
The objection prompted the acting director of the Surface Transportation Board at the U.S. Department of Transportation to deny Saratoga-North Creek’s request to open the line without going through a formal hearing process.
The railroad is now appealing that decision within DOT, and has received support for its position from Essex and Warren counties; U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook; NL Industries; and others.
The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors’ Economic Development Committee briefly discussed the matter last week, and may ask the county to take a supportive position when it meets in March.
“The Saratoga-North Creek Railway has been highly successful,” said Board of Supervisors’ Chairman Tom Wood, R-Saratoga. “The railroad has provided great economic opportunity to the county and the town of Corinth.”
The town of Corinth owns the tracks from Saratoga Springs to Corinth, and receives a payment each time a train uses the tracks.
The railroad wants to haul crushed rock left over as mine waste at the NL Industries site, where titanium was mined, starting during World War II. NL Industries largely ceased operations there in the 1980s, though in federal regulatory filings on the Saratoga-North Creek’s application the company said crushed rock and magnetite is still produced at the site.
“Although trucks are currently used to move this material to customers, NL is actively and seriously pursuing a plan and negotiations with Saratoga that could divert this traffic to rail transportation,” NL Industries said in a December filing.
Protect the Adirondacks! argues that the rails run through state forest preserve land, and were built in 1941 in violation of the state Constitution’s protection of forest preserve lands. The group says the line has been effectively abandoned because of disuse since 1989, so permission for the tracks through forest preserve land no longer exists.
Saratoga-North Creek, which is a subsidiary of Iowa Pacific Holdings of Chicago, bought the tracks between North Creek and Tahawus from NL Industries last fall.
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