The quarrel over re-opening the rail line to Tahawus is driven by a not-in-my-backyard protest from the environmental groups, contends the Saratoga-North Creek Railway (SNCRR) lawyer in filings to a rail regulation board.
The 6-million-acre Adirondack Park held in forever wild trust, but more than half the land inside the Blue Line is still private. It's a place where nature and people coexist. People don't dominate the landscape, and the landscape shouldn't dominate the people.
Though the tracks running out to the remote, high-peak wilderness in Newcomb have been quiet since 1989, that's not so distant in the memory of people who've spent their lives in the region. Newcomb Supervisor George Canon was featured in an article from the Adirondack Park Agency when the state purchased thousands of Tahawus acres in 2003, where he remembered a childhood in the company town at the mine. Canon, who also worked at the mine, has sent a letter of support for SNCRR, calling the redevelopment of the rail crucial to the economic future of his 500-citizen township.
The North Country Chamber of Commerce, which spearheaded the proposal for competitive granting in the New York Open For Business campaign, earning $103 million in grants for regional projects, tossed its hat in the ring early this month with a letter of support for the rail. President Garry Douglas said rail preservation and development is a necessary part of the region's future.
The easement for the rail line is active until 2062. The state DEC worried that the rail runs over 13 miles of the Vanderwhacker Wild Forest. So does 28N, a well-traveled road that connects the centers of all the local communities, and is driven by many passenger vehicles, large recreational vehicles, logging trucks and other heavy equipment. It's already a people-frequented area.
As asserted by SNCRR's lawyer, reopening the line would alleviate some of the heavy equipment traffic from the roadways. National Lead still hauls 30,000 tons of screened rock for construction and 3,000 tons of magnetite from the old mine site every year.
Taking that volume of stone off the roads and putting in on the unused rail line would give SNCRR a dependable place to launch their freight interests, an important part of their business model.
And, it is better for the environment.
In the early-to-mid 19th century, and again in the mid-to-late 20th century, the open mines bustled with activity, producing high-quality ore and good jobs. The towns where operations were housed, Adirondac and Tahawus, are now only skeletons of their former selves, but still serve as attractions for tourism. Economic development can encourage interest in nature.
The mines still hold a rich deposit of ore. Monetizing that ore may be difficult, but more efficient removal from the deep wild is key to ensuring its success. A similar problem with the cost of production kept Russian oil, much of it locked in tar sands, from being a viable business prospect. Once refining methods improved and demand grew, Russia became a major exporter of oil.
If the National Lead mine could be reopened, it would need a reliable, cheap way to get the ore out. Shipping mine tailings out with SNCRR could be a precursor of much greater things to come.
The environmental groups should not impede that progress.