Great Redwood Trail budget approved by legislative committees, and NCRA settles bitter EIR lawsuit

Budget subcommittees approve $3 million for NCRA audit/Trail master planning

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Sacramento, CA – It has been a week of great news for The Great Redwood Trail which will stretch through California’s rugged North Coast.  

Both the Senate and Assembly Budget Subcommittees on Resources and Transportation approved the Governor’s request for $3 million dollars to carry out the next steps outlined in Senator McGuire’s landmark legislation SB 1029. And separately the North Coast Railroad Authority’s (NCRA) Board of Directors approved a legal settlement, bringing an end to a near decade old bitter fight over their EIR. 

“It’s been a great week for the North Coast and for the Great Redwood Trail,” said Senator Mike McGuire. “Settling the lawsuit, which had gone on for way too long, allows for the next chapter to unfold. The $3 million requested by the Governor and approved by the Legislative budget committees, will usher in a new day for the North Coast. The funds will be put to work to wind down NCRA and formally kick off the all-important master planning process for the Great Redwood Trail.”

The Assembly and Senate subcommittees overwhelmingly approved the governor’s request for the implementation funding. This budget follows the course laid out by SB 1029, authorizing $1 million for an initial assessment of the right-of-way for the Trail, $1.5 million for research on the estimated 1,900 property easements along the 300 mile rail-to-trail line, and $500,000 to complete the audit of NCRA’s finances and the possible transfer of a portion of the line to the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit District (SMART). These findings will help facilitate the closure of NCRA and the transfer of the right-of-way to successor agencies.

In another major development:

After hiring new legal counsel earlier this year, the NCRA Board of Directors authorized their staff to begin settlement negotiations with the litigants in the Environmental Impact Report lawsuit that reached the California and US Supreme courts. NCRA counsel met with the Friends of the Eel River and Californians for Alternatives to Toxics, co-litigants in the case, and worked out an agreement that involves decertifying the controversial EIR and approving legal fees already awarded by the court. For further details on the settlement, please contact Mitch Stogner, NCRA’s Executive Director. 

“Resolving the issues that have plagued this rail line over the last 30 years will not be quick or easy, and we know there is a lot of work in front of us. That said, we’re off to a strong start and have made dramatic progress over the last year, and I’m excited to start working with the community on the ultimate design of the Great Redwood Trail and beginning the transition of a functionally bankrupt rail agency to a thriving trail organization,” Senator McGuire said.

The Trail will replace the crumbing railroad on much of the 300-mile-long track, and will become a significant economic driver for the rural North Coast communities it winds through. California outdoor recreational economy is one of the fastest growing economic sectors of the Golden State. It generates over $92 billion a year, is responsible for nearly 700,000 jobs, over $30 billion in wages, and brings over $6 billion in tax revenues back to state and local communities. Once completed, the Trail will attract hundreds of thousands of locals and visitors alike to hike this spectacular landscape and inject needed funds into the greater North Coast region.

Earlier this year a whopping $32 million was secured to build out urban portions of the Trail in Marin, Mendocino and Humboldt counties. The funds came through trail grant programs from both the California Transportation Commission and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.