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My Word: Rail a win-win for Humboldt Bay

By Peter Cress, Times Standard, December 8, 2018

 I encourage local leaders to boldly support the East-West Rail and Green Port Project. My perspective on the project is shaped by two key influences. First, as a sergeant in local law enforcement I see the consequences of hopelessness every day. Second, as one who was born and raised in Humboldt, I care deeply for this community. A robust economy is necessary to do good to the people of our community and Humboldt Bay is, and has always been, the sustainable economic driver for Humboldt. I encourage local leaders to support the East-West Rail and Green Port project. The public purse has little to lose and the community has everything to gain. 


 I see the consequences of pervasive social decay in Humboldt every day. However, crime and listlessness are just the symptom. The problem is hopelessness. An entire generation of our community wakes up every morning not expecting anything good to come of the day. We don’t do well as people when we live in hopelessness. Though money is far from the sole solution to hopelessness, a strong economy is a critical component to hope in any community, ours included. Connecting the western hemisphere through Humboldt County would be a game changer for our community. I believe a rail and port is the only use of Humboldt Bay that can ever generate economic growth of the magnitude necessary to bring a sense of hope to our community. 


 Unfortunately, hopelessness may have crept into many of our local leaders. Opposition to the East-West Rail and Green Port project almost always boils down to the same hopeless argument, “It can’t be done because it can’t be done.” The project is seen as too big, too risky, too complicated. It is big, it is risky, it is complicated, but the consequence to our community of not trying is far greater. It bears noting that we have things going for us that no one else does. We have a deep-water port, closer to Asian markets then most, appropriate zoning, state support, and large-scale private investors willing to take the risk. 


 I do not doubt for a moment that local leaders recognize the need in Humboldt County. I’m sure leaders would relish the opportunity to robustly fund the critical public services and infrastructure that is lacking in our community. I’m sure leaders recognizes that families with healthy household budgets support the arts, sports, recreation and natural beauty of our community. It would be profoundly disappointing to me if leaders succumb to the “It can’t be done because it can’t be done” attitude that sometimes rears its head in our community. I encourage leaders to be bold. Support the project. In reality, there is very little risk to the public because the project is privately funded. If it is too big then it is the bold men and women who invested who will suffer. 


 I don’t believe the project is too big. I do believe that the biggest obstacle will be convincing some of the local public that the project can, and should, be done because the circumstances are ripe and the need is great. That’s why we need bold leadership. Though I believe the numbers support the project, my correspondence intentionally favors broad concepts like hope and boldness because facts in the hands of the bold change communities. I encourage local leaders to be bold. 


Peter Cress resides in McKinleyville.

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Press Release

For Immediate Release 11/14/18

Press Release

Contact Bill Bertain (707) 443-5078


East-West Rail and Port Project Deemed Consistent with State’s Goals!


Eureka, CA - Humboldt Eastern Railroad LLC and Pacific Northwest Railroad received good news last week when a letter was received from Governor Jerry Brown’s Office of Business and Economic Development. The letter cited the 2018 California State Rail Plan adopted in September of this year, which addressed the economic importance of short line railroads as an integral part of California’s rail future. 


The letter states, “The Port of Humboldt is geographically situated to receive and export international goods and products that can be bound for all of California and the entire country.” It continues, “The Rail Plan’s vision for freight supports the expansion of new freight rail facilities at ports if the feasibility and benefits of the projects can be documented, and that can leverage funding support and private investment.” 


Bill Helwer-Carlson, board member of Humboldt Eastern Railroad, expressed satisfaction with the letter from the Governor’s office. “Our efforts, in conjunction with Pacific Northwest Railroad’s to build a freight corridor consisting of three modern, green marine terminals on Humboldt Bay and a 220-mile double-track green railroad from Fairhaven to the Red Bluff area is clearly consistent with the Rail Plan’s aims.” He adds a specific statement on page 180 of the State Rail Plan, ‘‘The State also has an interest in supporting regional economic development and investment in ports - proposals for economic development in the North Coast region and improvements to the Port of Humboldt Bay being two examples.” 


In September of 2015, Governor Brown called for solutions to the serious pollution and congestion problems that have been plaguing the major ports of California for years namely Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Oakland. He issued a demand that California’s State Agency heads come up with solutions that are, “Innovative, Transformative, and Big.” 


Helwer-Carlson went on to state, “The proposal of PNR and HERR will satisfy the Governor’s request and will alleviate, to some degree, the other port’s pollution and congestion problems. This port and rail project is, ‘Innovative, Transformative, and Big.’” With a $10-15 billion price tag, it may be among the largest privately funded infrastructure projects ever undertaken in California - excluding perhaps those by telephone companies and public utilities such as PG&E.” 


HERR is confident that with the leadership of Alan Painter, and his Pacific Northwest Railroad, and the support of people in our local region, these projects will become a reality and a green “game changer” for Northern California. Bill Helwer-Carlson calls upon the good people of Humboldt County, and our region, “To partner with the leadership and vision to, “Develop this freight corridor and transhipment destinations to become a world-class, green freight movement system to meet the challenge of addressing the pollution and congestion plaguing our state’s major ports.” 


Humboldt County has a culture of pioneering innovative and sustainable solutions that are recognized regionally and nationally. He concludes, “We have an opportunity to pioneer a freight movement system that is consistent with our values, and that is exciting.”

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