Group files challenge to La Crosse rail expansion process - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Group files challenge to La Crosse rail expansion process

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A group of nine people are challenging the permitting process of the Wisconsin DNR regarding the expansion of the railroad in part of La Crosse.

The Department of Natural Resources granted a permit to allow the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway to add a second line through the La Crosse River marsh. The second line would run roughly from Gillette Street near Logan High School on the north side of La Crosse down through the marsh to Farnam Street near Central High School on the city's south side.

The legal challenge is being filed by Midwest Environmental Advocates on behalf of nine people, members of the groups CARS, Citizens Acting for Rail Safety. In a statement, they argue the DNR's environmental analysis didn't comply with the law. They're seeking a court decision that would reverse the DNR's decision on the permit and make the agency prepare a more complete environmental analysis that complies with the Wisconsin Environmental Policy Act.

“The public notification and involvement was not easily accessed as the permit application process proceeded,” said Ralph Knudson, one of the petitioners in a statement from the group. “We are concerned that a number of important factors that should have been considered with this process were not addressed either publicly or internally at the DNR. We are committed to improving the DNR's public accountability.”

"I think it's becoming very clear that the rail transport of volatile crude oil particularly from North Dakota is becoming a national problem now," said CARS Member Tom Claflin.

The permit they are appealing allows BNSF to fill more than seven acres of wetland within the marsh and to build a bridge over the river.

"The DNR did not do due diligence in its assessment. They ignored some of the potential aspects of oil train transport," added Claflin.

The CARS group said the DNR didn't take into account certain factors like increased noise disturbance to neighbors, potential environmental impacts to a bald eagle nest near the tracks, and the risk of an oil spill.

The group cited concerns over the risk that additional trains pose to the environment, threat to public safety, and loss of marsh wetlands from the project. They contend the DNR did not look at these impacts during the permitting process.

A DNR spokesperson contacted by WXOW was not able to comment on the legal challenge.

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