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McGuire’s Gravy Trail

In the huge, multi-million dollar study which McGuire’s Great Redwood Trail 2018 bill commissioned which was to be completed by last summer (it was), we found these interesting paragraphs:

“Following an open bidding process, NCRA’s Board of Directors approved NWPCo [Northwest Pacific Company, partly owned by NCRA General Counsel and former northcoast Congressman Doug Bosco] as its new freight operator on September 13, 2006, and executed an Operating Agreement later that month. NWPCo is a private enterprise created in June 2006 and should not be confused with the prior owner-operator, North Western Pacific Company L.L.C. (NWPY); the historic name of the rail line, Northwestern Pacific Railroad (NWP); nor the Joint Powers Authority and SMART predecessor described previously on page 15, NWPRA. Following execution of the Operating Agreement, NWPCo and NCRA entered into a series of complicated contracts [our emphasis] that helped finance rehabilitation of the southern portion of the line and lift the Emergency Order 21 from Windsor, south; …”

Let’s pause here for a moment, because they just breezed over an important point that the Trail Dems always leave out. The “complicated contracts” were arranged and/or overseen by Bosco who was involved in both sides of those agreements. And those agreements “help finance rehabilitation” of the southern portion of the line…” The “southern portion of the line” has never had much rail traffic even though it was rehabbed with Bosco arranged financing. According to former (and dissident) NCRA and dissident board member Marin attorney Bernie Meyers, this financing involved Bosco’s NWP “loaning” money at above market interest rates to NCRA which the NCRA then used to pay NWP/Bosco to “rehabilitate” the line. Then some time later the state or feds would reimburse the NCRA through one or another grant and transportation program — with interest — which the NCRA would then pass back to NWP/Bosco, with interest. It’s not clear where those complicated contracts stand now as the NCRA is “disbanded” and the Great Redwood Trail is “banded” in its place.

The state report continues: “…it also left NCRA severely in debt to NWPCo and contractually obligated for up to 99 years with no guaranteed lease payment revenue. These contracts and financial arrangements are detailed on page 23 and Appendix C, OSAE Calculated Value of Net Assets Report.”

No they’re not. Appendix C simply provides a link to raw list of NCRA “contracts and agreements” on a separate state website which is — get this! — 66 pages of very fine, nearly unreadable print larded up with needless minutia and jargon and notes and conditions and easements and permits and who knows what else… Nowhere does it identify, much less attempt to aggregated or evaluate, the debts owed to NWP/Bosco which were acrrued over years and years of insider deals. But we do see elsewhere in the study that around $12 million is owed to NWP/Bosco which isn’t broken down into principle or interest or work done but not paid for. 

Funny how they managed to leave those particular details out of the huge Trail Feasibility report/audit. (We assume Mr. Bosco knows exactly how much he’s owed and will make sure every penny of it is paid in the upwards of $1 billion the state plans (hopes?) to spend on the trail project over the next few decades as interest continues to accrue.

We were not surprised to discover, as Ryan Burns notes above, that the study concluded that the trail is allegedly “feasible.” First they grudgingly note that, “The potential trail corridor contains significant feasibility challenges in certain locations, particularly in remote segments within and close to the Eel River Canyon. Key constraints include segments with steep, unstable slopes that destabilize hundreds and occasionally thousands of feet of the corridor; existing right-of-way obstructions that in some locations fully block the corridor; former rail infrastructure (i.e., bridges, trestles, tunnels, and major culverts) that have been dilapidated or destroyed by years of deferred maintenance; and the significant cost of developing a public trail.”

But then, voila! “Despite these constraints most [sic — a curiously imprecise estimate for such an expensive study] of the 252-mile corridor is generally intact with good physical conditions for trail construction. State Parks’ assessment confirmed that the corridor’s gentle grades [sic] lend themselves to interregional non-motorized trail use. If [sic] fully developed, the Great Redwood Trail could [sic] create an outdoor recreation opportunity and commuter corridor that would connect Northern California communities with the Bay Area.”

And here’s another neat trick: They claim that “most of the 252-mile corrider is generally intact…”and that maybe 15-25% is not, or 75% to 85% is “intact.” That high percentage estimate is very misleading however. Because it uses the entire 252 mile fantasy as the denominator. That means that upwards of 25% (let’s assume the high number because you know they’re trying to downplay it) of the 252 miles is “dilapidated or destroyed by years of deferred maintenance; and the significant cost of developing a public trail…” 25% of 252 miles is 63 miles! So that means there’s probably at least 63 miles of the proposed trail where 100% of it (to use their percentage trick in reverse) will need “significant cost” to make into a trail and is therefore NOT FEASIBLE. (For rough comparison it’s 68 miles from Ukiah to Leggett.) Making the entire project NOT FEASIBLE.

The study continues, “Trail development may [sic] also consider [sic] inclusion of river restoration opportunities, such as [sic] removal of collapsed rail infrastructure and rail cars from the river, enhancing the value [sic — what “value”?] of the trail and therefore its potential [sic] feasibility. At this preliminary assessment stage, it is unknown whether environmental restoration would be a requisite [sic] part of trail development, which would need further investigation to be determined. Due to access challenges [sic], the costs to remove abandoned rail debris would be high [i.e., NOT FEASIBLE]. Recognizing the complexity of this section of the corridor, an alternative narrow, soft-surface trail may [sic] be readily developed and maintained over time [sic], compared to a Class I hard-surface trail.”

They don’t say where this “alternative narrow, soft-surfact trail” would be located, presumably NOT on the NCRA right of way which means eminent domain seizure of private land over miles of alternatives routes.

And they don’t even mention the further collapses that will be caused by the construction itself (which will steepen the already steep slopes) nor the ongoing collapses that will continue in the unstable Eel River canyon over the years and decades over which this Great Boondoggle will generate millions of dollars for well-connected hacks and consultants and planners and engineers thus becoming the new Gravy Train, er, Gravy Trail of the Northcoast. First there was the Little Train That Never Was, and now there will be the Great Trail That Never Will Be. 

3 Comments

  1. George Dorner February 26, 2021

    Time to point out the blatantly obvious. The Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail don’t have canyons that can collapse on them because they are ridgetop paths. On the other hand, the Great Redwood Trail consists largely of canyons that may collapse upon it.

    Has anyone taken this obvious drawback into account?

    • George Hollister February 26, 2021

      There is a focused rosy vision, with side views blocked. The wide eye can see more that can go wrong than there are ways to make it right, not only to the traditional pessimist. And there is the “build it and they will come” attitude, which is speculation, at best. Speculation as well, that when they come they will spend a lot of money, and create a new economy in the redwoods. Maybe in a hundred years? Maybe.

  2. George Dorner February 26, 2021

    Also…where will the maintenance staff for the trail come from? The Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Coast Trail rely largely on volunteers for maintenance. So where are the hiking clubs, scout troops, etc that will maintain the Great Redwood Trail? Or will the state have to hire someone to maintain it?

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