Keeping the railroads responsible

Keeping the railroads responsible

In late April, Phil Longden, a resident of the Hope area, emailed Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper regarding an issue along the lakeshore. He mentioned that Montana Rail Link (MRL) had staged some railroad ties along the track for a future repair and that there were some significant erosions creeping closer to the rail line.

Phil sent along a series of photographs, provided below, that showed how some of the rail ties had fallen down the embankment and were now in danger of floating away with the rising lake level, as well as a series of pictures identifying embankment locations in need of structural repair. He also mentioned that he had spoken with MRL’s Safety Division but wasn’t getting much traction.

At LPOW, while we are certainly concerned about debris entering the lake, we are more concerned about the potential for a train derailment involving toxic cargo. If there are structural issues with an embankment in proximity to the track and lake, it needs to be brought to someone’s attention immediately and dealt with.

Long story short, our Executive Director, Steve Holt, spoke with MRL’s Safety Division, got referred to an engineer, who then referred him to a permit acquisition specialist. The permit acquisition specialist mentioned he was somewhat aware of the situation, but had had some difficulty in the past getting a permit from the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) to install riprap. Steve mentioned that it seemed odd since we see 3-4 riprap permits hit IDL’s website each week. He then spoke with IDL, found out that they would either issue an emergency permit immediately, or if the work happened above high water the repairs could be made under the maintenance section within a historic encroachment permit. Phoned MRL back, Whaalaa, riprap installed, bank stabilized!

New riprap installed along rail line!

As we all know, it’s a big lake and we can’t be everywhere. We need your help. Please, if you see something that is concerning, call or send us an email. It may not be resolved as easily as the embankment issue, but it won’t be from lack of effort on our end. We were impressed with both MRL and IDL personnel for expediting the permitting and repair once it was obvious something needed to be done. And a special thank you Phil, for being our eyes on the water!

If you ever notice anything suspicious around the lake, please call us at (208) 597-7188 or submit a report on our Contact Us page.