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9th Circuit Court says No a third time to halting construction

MAT-SU—For a third time, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has denied a request to stop construction on the Port MacKenzie Rail Extension, upholding a federal court’s ruling today (Oct.7).

“The (U.S.Army) Corps reasonably determined that such culverts and buildings can be effective in maintaining wetland hydrology, and the record supports the conclusion that the surrounding wetlands will be sufficiently benefitted by those conditions to avoid irreparable harm while this case is pending,” stated the 9th Circuit opinion today.

The rail link has plans for 8 bridges, up to 100 culverts for water flow, and has incorporated crossings into the project for wildlife and recreational trail users.

The pending case involves the plaintiffs Cook Inletkeeper, Sierra Club, & Alaska Survival who claim that the U.S. Army Corps erred in issuing a wetlands permit for the Port MacKenzie Rail project. That court challenge is still being decided in Alaska District Court before Chief District Judge Ralph Beistline.

This latest ruling is a fourth denial by a federal court to stop construction. Here’s the court cases at a glance:

• January 2013, 9th Circuit finds merit in the environmental impact statement upholding the federal Surface Transportation Board’s decision to allow rail construction & denies injunction on rail construction.

• February 2013, U.S. District Court denies injunction on construction while still considering the challenge to the U.S. Army Corps permit

• February 2013, 9th Circuit denied emergency appeal to stop construction

• October 2013, 9th Circuit denies request to stop rail construction

The rail extension will be a 32-mile link from the Alaska mainline to Port MacKenzie. Three segments of the project are under construction now, creating well over 100 jobs. The fourth segment is expected to undergo work this fall.

Read the court opinion here.

For more information, call Mat-Su Borough Public Affairs Director Patty Sullivan at 745-9577 or  psullivan@matsugov.us

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