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Federal Court Rules in Favor Port Mac Rail Again

ANCHORAGE—A federal court judge, again, ruled in favor of the Port MacKenzie Railroad project, yesterday, May 27, on a third and last point of a lawsuit over wetlands.

Diamond Lake outfall temp bridgelowresAt issue, was a claim by the plaintiffs Cook Inlet Keeper that the wetlands affected by the railroad link were undervalued, and the U.S. Army Corps should not have issued a permit to allow railroad construction.

The federal court in Anchorage wanted to know where in the record of 11,000 pages it showed that the U.S. Army Corps addressed the objections of various agencies regarding wetlands impacts.

The Port MacKenzie Railroad link is being built across some 32 miles from the uplands of Port MacKenzie to outside the city of Houston, where it connects with the mainline of the Alaska Railroad. Just 0.6 acres of the 95.8 acres of wetlands to be filled are high functioning wetlands.

As intervenors in the lawsuit, the Borough and Railroad explained in their brief:

• That by 2010 the rail route became less conceptual when the 32-mile route was identified, and so the wetlands analysis grew more specific. 

• That high value wetlands were intentionally avoided in the identified route, in one example by putting the rail line through agricultural property near Point MacKenzie

• And that wetlands analysis criteria were used that are tailored to Alaska terrain rather than wetlands of New England

Cook Inlet Keeper has challenged the project in court and lost every time.  The Mat-Su Borough and Alaska Railroad have won the past five rulings: three 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rulings and two U.S. District court rulings.

A final judgment from the federal court is expected in a week.

Read the Summary Judgment from US District Judge Ralph Beistline here.

Photo: A temporary bridge for the Diamond Lake outflow, located in segment 3 of the project, 16 miles up from the rail loop embankment near Port MacKenzie, and 3 miles north of Ayrshire Ave.

For more information call Mat-Su Borough Public Affairs Director Patty Sullivan at 861-8577 or psullivan@matsugov.us

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