Three shipments of used oil tankers have been transported to the Adirondacks for indefinite storage

November 10, 2017

Over the past month, three shipments of used out-of-service oil tanker railcars have been transported to the Adirondack Park by Iowa Pacific Holdings for indefinite storage on its dead-end, 30-mile-long Sanford Lake Railway line that it owns between North Creek and the Tahawus Mine in Newcomb. As of Thursday November 9th, used oil tankers were found in three locations.

Iowa Pacific Holdings owns and operates the Saratoga & North Creek Railway, which runs a tourist train, on tracks in the Warren County and Saratoga County, which it leases from Warren County and the Town of Corinth. This section of track is approximately 40 miles and runs from Saratoga to North Creek. Under the terms of its leases no railcars can be stored on the rail lines in Warren and Saratoga counties, but the company claims it can transport out-of-service rail cars through these counties to the Sanford Lake Railway, which begins in North Creek and runs through the north end of Warren County, into Hamilton County and Essex County.

12 oil tankers stand on siding track outside the Tahawus Mine next to the Opalescent River. These tankers are being stored on tracks within the designated Wild River corridor under the Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act. The tracks in this location traverse private lands classified as Resource Management under the Adirondack Park Agency Act.
 
Iowa Pacific Holdings has brought three shipments to the Adirondack Park of used out-of-service oil tanker railcars. The first contained 28 cars, the second 25, the third 12. The first two loads of cars filled more than a half mile of siding track along the Boreas River. Iowa Pacific only has three areas of siding track (areas where two sets of track run in parallel); these are located along the Boreas River, as shown below, south of the Tahawus Mine, and along the Hudson River and Route 28 outside of North Creek, where 22 hopper cars have been stored for more than one year. All told, Iowa Pacific is now storing approximately 87 railcars along all three sections of siding track where  it owns a conservation easement for the rail line.
 
More than one half mile of siding track has been filled with used out-of-service oil tankers on a stretch of track that runs along the Boreas River. These cars are within the designated Scenic River corridor under the Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act. This stretch of track also traverses the Forest Preserve.
 
This week, Iowa Pacific brought 12 more oil tankers north, but as of Thursday November 9th, had only transported them as far as the Barton Mines manufacturing plant in North River. These 12 oil tankers are presumably on their way to the siding track south of the Tahawus Mine in Newcomb.
 
12 oil tanker railcars sat at the Barton Mines manufacturing plant in North River en route to siding track south of the Tahawus Mine in Newcomb.
 
The three areas of siding track are all governed by different state laws depending on whether lands are private or public Forest Preserve. Private lands are governed by the Adirondack Park Agency Act depending on the land use classification. Right now railcars are on track that traverses private lands within the Rural Use lands in North River and Resource Management lands south of the Tahawus Mine. The lands near the mine  classified as Resource Management are also part of a Rivers Act corridor for the “Wild” Opalescent River. The Adirondack Park Agency governs uses on private lands under the Rivers Act. Protect the Adirondacks believes there are significant legal questions around storage of out-of-service railcars under the APA Act and Rivers Act on private lands in the Adirondacks.

The Rivers Act also pertains to the public Forest Preserve. The railroad is also storing used oil tankers within the “Scenic” Boreas River corridor on track that traverses the Forest Preserve. Rivers Act lands in the Forest Preserve are governed by the Department of Environmental Conservation. There are serious Rivers Act issues that must be examined for Forest Preserve lands.

Protect the Adirondacks opposes the use of the Adirondack Park for storage of out-of-service rail cars. The Sanford Lake Railway runs for 30 miles from Newcomb to North Creek and Iowa Pacific Holdings says it can store more than 2,000 railcars along the line, a hundred or so on siding track, the rest on the main line. The Adirondack Park should not be used as a junkyard. These railcars are being stored indefinitely and we run a great risk that the rail cars on the dead-end Sanford Lake line will end up as a 30-mile-long graveyard of decaying oil tankers.

Protect the Adirondacks also believes that there are significant legal questions around the change in use of the Sanford Lake Railway once the siding track is full and the main line is used for storing railcars. Use of the track for storage is different than use for transportation. This rail line was created expressly for the purpose of hauling minerals from the Tahawus Mine. The change in use of the railroad from transportation of minerals from the mine to storage is a significant change that we think violates the purposes for why that railroad was created during World War II. Once the Sanford Lake Railway ceases use for transportation of minerals it must revert back to the original owners, the biggest being the State of New York for Forest Preserve lands. So far the company has not stored cars on the main line, but if it keeps bring railcars to the Adirondacks on a weekly basis it will start clogging the main line soon.

To date, Governor Andrew Cuomo has expressed his opposition to the plans of Iowa Pacific Holdings, but neither the Adirondack Park Agency or the Department of Environmental Conservation have intervened to stop this plan, to force the company to submit an application for review, or to order the removal of these railcars.

The pictures below show the railcars being stored along the Boreas River, near the Tahawus Mine along the Opalescent River, and near Barton Mines.
 
One half mile of rail cars are being stored along the banks of the Boreas River on rail line that traverses the public Forest Preserve. These cars are within a designated Scenic River corridor under the Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act.
 
Rail cars stored on the banks of the Opalescent River south of the Tahawus Mine. These cars are within a designated Wild River corridor under the Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act and on lands classified under the APA Act as Resource Management.
 
Railcars at the Barton Mines manufacturing plant in North River en route to storage at the Tahawus Mine. This stretch of track is in an area classified as Industrial Use under the APA Act.
 

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