Warren County supervisors object to DEC rail ‘abandonment’ effort

A stretch of rail in Tahawus, part of a rail line the state wants declare "abandoned," is seen. Local government, a business owner and transportation company are contesting the effort. (Photo provided)

QUEENSBURY — Warren County supervisors on Friday decided to formally oppose the state’s effort to have a section of rail line in Warren and Essex counties deemed “abandoned.”

Supervisors on the county board’s Public Works Committee decided to send the U.S. Surface Transportation Board a letter letting the agency know it is not in favor of the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s application to have the Sanford Lake rail line between North Creek and Tahawus deemed abandoned.

The DEC has said its effort solely seeks to remove the line’s owner, Iowa Pacific Holdings LLC, from operations and ownership of the rail line. But supervisors in Warren and Essex counties and the town of Newcomb have had concerns about language in the application and have come out against the application, as a business seeks to move stone from the former mines in Tahawus out of the region.

Abandonment could result in the tracks no longer being used, though Warren County officials said that likelihood seemed slim in light of the possible sale and use of the line for stone shipments.

Iowa Pacific has also been negotiating with a potential buyer for the line, which connects with Warren County’s line in North Creek, and then goes south to Saratoga Springs.

The county owns the 40-mile stretch of rails between North Creek and Hadley, and the town of Corinth owns the rails south to Saratoga Springs.

Horicon Supervisor Matt Simpson, chairman of the Public Works Committee, said the Surface Transportation Board proceeding requires the county to weigh in by Oct. 23.

He said the Transportation Board’s actions could limit what the county wants to do with its section of rail line. The county has heard from a number of operators seeking to contract for excursion and freight trains, but has not made a decision as to which direction to go.

“We want to keep our options open,” Lake George Supervisor Dennis Dickinson said, adding he was “adamantly opposed” to the abandonment effort.

Iowa Pacific formerly ran the Saratoga & North Creek Railway in Warren and Saratoga counties before pulling out earlier this year amid financial problems and a controversy over its storage of tanker cars on the Sanford Lake line.

The full county Board of Supervisors will consider the issue at its next meeting Oct. 19.