EDITOR'S NOTE -- This story was modified from the original posting to clarify what the Federal Surface Transportation Board's ruling said.
The parent company of the Saratoga and North Creek Railway can reapply to establish freight service from North Creek to the old titanium mine at Tahawus, a federal board ruled.
The Federal Surface Transportation Board said Iowa Pacific Holdings’ bid for for common carrier status, which will allow it to reopen the 30 miles of unused rails between North Creek and Newcomb and provide freight service along the line, has met all the requirements of the Department of Transportation, and its reapplication should be approved.
The ruling came over objections from Protect the Adirondacks!, an environmental group that has argued the railroad was illegally built in the state Forest Preserve during World War II. State Forest Preserve land is to be kept “forever wild,” the group notes.
Iowa Pacific would like to be able to haul the gravel-like mine waste out of Tahawus for commercial processing. A limited amount is now hauled out by truck.
The waste from what was open-pit titanium mining is believed to contain rare earth elements. Access to rare earth elements, many of which now come from China, is critical to high-tech and manufacturing companies, said U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y.
As much as 100 million tons of waste may be at the mine, according to an Iowa Pacific estimate.
Reconstructing the line, which hasn’t been used in about 30 years, will create short-term construction jobs, Schumer said, as well as long-term jobs at the mine.
“This is the right decision to help get the North Country’s economy on the move, as well as get more trucks off our roads and highways, and cut pollution in the process,” said U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who also participated in the announcement, along with U.S. Rep. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh.
According to Iowa Pacific, 15 to 20 people would be employed during reconstruction of the track.
Monday’s decision paves the way for Iowa Pacific to haul freight for other businesses along the line too.