By Bob Balgemann


Plans to build a 278-mile rail line from Milton, Wis., through eastern Boone County and on to LaPorte, Ind., are in the next stage.

Given the potential for issues, it was determined that the route should have an environmental impact study (EIS), which is under way.

An EIS is an independent federal review and detailed analysis of the project, which is required by the National Environmental Policy Act. Its purpose is to inform both the public and governmental agencies about potential environmental impacts.

It was a preliminary look at potential environmental issues that led to the beginning of the line taken away from Broadhead, Wis., and moved to Milton.

The EIS and comments made by people during recent scoping meetings along the route that will be part of the decision-making process. The federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) in Washington, D.C., will decide the fate of the project.

Great Lakes Basin Transportation (GLBT) is proposing the rail line in an effort to by congested Chicago and facilitate more rapid freight movements.

Impact categories that are part of the process are safety, land use, recreation, biological and water resources, aesthetics, water quality, energy resources, and navigation.

Boone County has sent a letter to the STB, in which it addresses a number of those subject areas.

Overall, the letter from county board Chairman Bob Walberg states, in part, the following concerns: Violation of the county’s comprehensive plan, negative impact on agricultural and conservation lands, risk to aquifers and underground pipelines, loss of transportation routes, decline in property values, noise and impact upon first responders.

Additionally, issues of great concern, though not necessarily environmental in nature, include no disclosure of ownership, insurance costs to residents and loss of farm productivity due to loss of livelihood.

Here are some of the comments that were made in the various subject areas that are part of the EIS:

Land use

A combination of urban, suburban, exurban, and resort development outside Boone County borders, in all directions, “has altered the once unequaled agricultural richness and rural integrity of the stateline area.”

In an effort to keep that from continuing, “comprehensive plans are calling for agricultural preservation, environmental protection, and the enhancement of small community character since the 1950s.

“There is nothing about the proposed route that is compatible with the 1999 Boone County Comprehensive Plan.”

As a specific, the letter states that GLBT is offering a compensation package that would give participating property owners access to the rail line.

In theory, the letter states such access would lead to development in multiple agricultural areas, a clear violation of the plan.


Public safety officials expressed great concern about diminished response times due to the number of grade crossings along the proposed route.

“Our public safety professionals simply cannot determine the additional resources they would need to management a derailment accident,” the letter stated. “We would need greater reliance on neighboring mutual aid arrangements and their resources are also strained due to their own local needs.”









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