Newcomb Town Supervisor George Canon headed an effort to present a letter of support to the rail regulation board that rejected Saratoga-North Creek Railway's application. He grew up around the Tahawus mining operations, and said the rail is essential to local economic development.
Members of the Essex County Board of Supervisors showed their support for the reopening of the Tahawus-North Creek rail line for freight travel.
At its Jan. 3 organizational meeting, the board unanimously seconded a resolution giving their support to parent company Iowa Pacific and its application to the Surface Transportation Board for the re-activation of the Tahawus-North Creek Rail Line.
The motion was brought to the floor by Newcomb Supervisor George Canon.
“Unfortunately it is being opposed by some environmental groups and possibly even the state itself,” Canon said. “I would like a unanimous resolution, if I could get it, from this body supporting Iowa’s Pacific’s intent to move freight from Tahawus that could have a huge economic impact on my community, the town of Minerva and all around us.”
Minerva Supervisor Sue Montgomery Corey said that she has seen the boom that can come with rail usage.
“On the other side of the county line is the town of Johnsburg, and we have seen a real renaissance there in part due to the re-emergence of the rails there for tourism,” Corey said. “I think that there is a definite benefit and I think this is something that we definitely need to explore and support.”
Moriah Supervisor Thomas “Tom” Scozzafava spoke about the loss of railways has affected his town.
“We now have the huge tailings pile that is at Seven Mill owned by a French company Rhodia, and rare earths right now are at an all-time high on the market,” Scozzafava said. “This company is looking right now at the possibility of moving that pile to Texas. They will have to truck it out... In conversations that I have had with this company, they were saying if only that rail line were still in existence today, what an asset it would be to do what they need to do, so I fully support Mr. Canon’s resolution.”
Scozzafava said that he felt the railways were important and should be protected.
“I think it is crazy that the environmentalists are out there wanting to tear the tracks up on that line that is so important to the economic recovery in that area and we as a board should do everything that we can do to make certain that they do not tear that rail line out,” he said.
Canon said that the rails are in good shape at the moment when asked by new Elizabethtown Supervisor Margaret “Maggie” Bartley.
“I would say the rails are in very good shape,” Canon said. “Does there need to be some repairs? There are probably some washouts that have taken place over the last 20 years, but for the most part those rails were in excellent shape when the mines closed and I would expect that it would take minor repairs to put them back in order.”
The rail line, owned by National Lead, was last used when the Tahawus mine closed in 1989. In the early to mid-1800s, the area was used for iron mining, but since 1942 it had been mined for ilmenite, which was processed into titanium dioxide for products such as paint. Magnetite was a byproduct.