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Federal Court Rules in Favor of Port Mackenzie Rail Extension

February 12th, 2013

A second federal court has struck down an effort to block construction on the Port MacKenzie Rail Extension, which will link the main line of the Alaska Railroad to Port Mackenzie in Alaska.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline denied a request for a preliminary injunction by Cook Inlet Keeper, writing that halting construction “does not appear to be in the best interest of the public.” The environmental group, along with Sierra Club and Alaska Survival, objected to the U.S. Army Corps’ decision to issue a wetlands permit, alleging that the rail extension would cause “irreparable harm.”

“As defendants point out in their respective briefs, extensive studies were conducted over a period of years regarding this project, which suggest that the likelihood of irreparable harm is small, especially given the special conditions included in the permit that was issued by the Corps of Engineers and the significant mitigation measures required of the Alaska Railroad,” Beistline wrote in a brief.

The project will undertake 100 mitigation measures, and the Corps permit imposed 19 additional conditions to protect the environment. The rail link has plans for eight bridges and up to 100 culverts, and it will incorporate crossings for wildlife and recreational trail users. The project is also purchasing 160 acres of wetlands to preserve them, in exchange for the 95 acres of wetlands it is affecting.

In January in San Francisco, in a separate case, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the environmental groups to allow construction of the project and denied injunction on construction.

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