Tahawus rail line is not just private property

To the editor:

Thank you for your Jan. 8 editorial calling on Iowa Pacific Holdings LLC to be a better neighbor to North Creek and Newcomb. Like the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, we are troubled by the company’s decision to turn the railroad between those two communities into a tank car junkyard.

However, you give IPH too much credit when you say it is “storing private items on private property.” The very existence of the railroad is controversial because it crosses a large section of “forever wild” Forest Preserve.

Some 13 miles of the 22-mile line are in the Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest. That is public land owned by New York residents. The railroad was built by the federal government in 1940 using taxpayer dollars. President Franklin Roosevelt wanted to be sure National Lead could easily remove titanium and iron ore (for naval vessels, airplanes, etc.) from its mines in Tahawus. It was done in support of the war effort in World War II.

New Yorkers chose not to challenge the federal government’s authority to do this. President Franklin Roosevelt had been a popular governor of New York before he was elected president. In recognition of the special status of public lands in the Adirondack Park, the federal government created only a temporary easement for the rail line across state land, which will expire in time.

We believe Gov. Cuomo is on solid legal footing in his federal complaint seeking the removal of IPH as the current operator of this rail line. IPH had everyone’s support to operate a railroad, but it stopped doing that. Now it is operating a junkyard on public property in a way that risks harm to the state’s investments in a clean environment, in wilderness-based recreation and in tourism.

Even if these were clean, new cars — and they are not — IPH’s plan would still create a 22-mile wall of steel, along river corridors that are protected by law as wild or scenic. That would stand as both an eyesore and a formidable barrier to wildlife passage and migration in several river valleys.

William C. Janeway