Sunday, October 7, 2012

GPT: EIS Scoping Comment No. 14

Chuckanut Drive Landslide Hazard

The BNSF single mainline track south of Bellingham and below Chuckanut Drive follows a narrow passage between steep slopes on one side and water on the other. 
This particular corridor has a long history of landslides, which periodically block both State Highway 111 -Chuckanut Drive- and the railroad, requiring traffic delays and emergency clearing of both routes before vehicles or trains can proceed in either direction.

Because the geology of the Chuckanut Mountains contains formations of Chuckanut Sandstone that are frequently layered at angles tilted down slope, this represents an extremely hazardous situation that is conducive to landslides, especially in wet weather.

If a blockage due to landslide or other factors were to cause a train derailment occurrence in this narrow and relatively inaccessible corridor, how would this be handled in terms of clearing the railroad right-of-way? 
How would multiple carloads of coal dumped on the shoreline be cleared, and with what impacts on the water and other rail traffic, including AMTRAK passenger trains?

What special emergency services would be needed to rescue any injured people, and how would these be deployed and paid for?
Since this corridor is very constricted with limited platforms capable of supporting cranes and other lifting devices, how would disaster response be provided?

This problem needs to be treated as an integral part of the EIS Scope, and a comprehensive Hazard Response Plan developed to satisfy the important need for public safety throughout the recognized zone of influence of the GPT proposal.