Camas approves resolution focusing on coal trains

Document asks for EIS that identifies local impacts

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Files/The Columbian The Camas Indoor Kite Festival is today and Sunday at Camas High School.

The Camas City Council recently approved a resolution that outlines a series of concerns about the potential impacts of coal trains on the city and its residents.

The resolution, approved by six of the seven members of City Council, states that an increase in the number of coal trains passing through the area could increase train noise, cause traffic congestion that could delay emergency vehicles, and negatively impact public health.

“We urge the appropriate authorities to require an environmental impact statement that identifies and measures the impacts on our community from the significant increase in coal train traffic,” the resolution states.

“We urge the appropriate authorities to hold at least one of the environment impact statement scoping hearings at a location in Clark County.”

Proposals have been made by companies including Millennium Bulk Terminals that would involve the transport of coal from the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming to terminals in Washington, where the product would then be loaded onto barges and exported to Asia. Uncovered trains, some estimates predicting 20 to 30 per day, carrying the coal would need to pass through BNSF rail lines in Camas and Washougal.

All members of the Camas City Council voted to approve the resolution, except for Melissa Smith who abstained.

Yesterday, Smith said there currently isn’t enough factual information available about the impacts of coal trains to warrant her taking an official stance on the topic.

“I just don’t have a response one way or the other,” she said. “It is a federal issue.

“I am more concerned about the BPA issue, than the coal issue,” she continued. “There isn’t enough data on [coal trains] for me to be compelled one way or another.”

The final version of a letter opposing elements of the Bonneville Power Administration’s proposal crafted by the Camas city officials is expected to be up for discussion during the next City Council workshop on Monday, March 19.

BPA is currently proposing running a 500-kilovolt transmission line from Troutdale, Ore., to Castle Rock, Wash. Some sections would travel through Camas in Oak Park and an area north of Lacamas Lake slated for future development.

BPA will release its draft EIS this spring.

The Washougal City Council is expected to vote on a resolution pertaining to the impacts of coal trains on Monday, March 19, during its regular meeting that begins at 6 p.m. at City Hall.