I am deeply concerned by the actions of Vermont Railway. My greatest personal concern is the unchecked environmental impact on the land where this proposed transload facility is to be located near and partially in a flood zone and the danger that it presents to the LaPlatte River, Lake Champlain and to all the residents of Vermont, including all the wildlife and plants that live in this environmentally delicate and sensitive area.
So far, to my best guess, 19 acres have been cleared in what I can only describe as the complete destruction of the land. This past Sunday I was walking on the conservation property across the river from the railroad land and I saw a bald eagle. It was magnificent. This area, the LaPlatte River basin, has become what I call a sacred place where many of us connect with nature. It is home to many species of birds and wildlife. It is a place of refuge, not only for the wildlife, but for many of us as we seek an unspoiled place to be with nature.
Without state and federal oversight, we do not know as to how this project will impact this delicate and sensitive natural area or if it will be protected at all from this unchecked commercial development.
If we have another flood like Irene or the Great Flood of 1927, where in some places the tributaries were 8 feet or higher than Irene, what will prevent a total environmental disaster on a scale we haven’t seen before?
The railroad stated that it did not own any salt. Please tell me why an independent trucking company and its retail operation of storing and selling salt and proposed, for the future, the storage and selling of petroleum, is allowed to hide under the railroad’s thinly veiled preemption status, which supposedly allows a preemption for only the salt the railroad needs to keep its tracks clear?
We have been asked to trust the railroad but after the environmental disaster in Thetford in 2005, where salt leaked into shallow drinking water wells and railroad salt contractor, Barrett Trucking, the same contractor proposed for Shelburne, spilled salt, did not clean it up and did not report the spill to the railroad.
This is from a local paper at that time, “According to the study, on at least one occasion during unloading of road salt the operator reportedly spilled several hundred pounds of road salt on the railroad tracks. The salt was not cleaned up and subsequently was dissolved by rainwater precipitation and storm water runoff.”
Something has to happen, as we will all have to live with the outcome of this project. It’s time to pull away the veil of preemption and put it away. We must ensure that the town and state zoning, planning and water quality laws are followed and not compromised under the presumption that the railroad can do as it wishes without oversight. Saying “trust me” has no meaning in this situation. Too much is at stake. True actions of integrity, honesty, cooperation, transparency and complying with regulations, are the only things that matter.
Kevin Clayton, Shelburne