NEWCOMB — The U.S. Surface Transportation Board has OK’d Saratoga & North Creek Railway’s proposal to reopen the Tahawus Line between North Creek and Newcomb’s Tahawus hamlet.
The 30-mile-long line hasn’t been used since the early 1980s, when National Lead Industries’ titanium-dioxide mines closed in Newcomb.
National Lead, based in Texas, wants to remove rare earths from the millions of tons of ore tailings stored on the site, and the railroad would be used to transport it out.
Iowa Pacific Holdings, which owns the railroad, has been trying to reopen the line since late last year, and its petition was recently granted by the Surface Transportation Board.
The rails cross three counties — Essex, Warren and Hamilton — beginning between Route 28 and the Hudson River north of North Creek and ending at the mines in Newcomb.
Protect the Adirondacks and the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club have opposed the reopening, because the 29.7-mile line crosses about 13 miles of State Forest Preserve. The environmental groups say the tracks should be removed and the land returned to Forever Wild status.
The short line was built during World War II to remove ore needed for the war effort.
The Adirondack Committee of the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club and the Syracuse-based Atlantic States Legal Foundation have appealed the Transportation Board’s granting of common-carrier status for Saratoga & North Creek Railway, by sending a written petition to the board.
The appeal hinges on whether the line was ever officially abandoned and the easements dissolved by that action. The Transportation Board has previously said such issues are beyond its review and should be determined in state courts. The board has so far taken no action on the request to reopen the case.
The State Department of Environmental Conservation and State Department of Transportation have both raised no objections to Iowa Pacific’s request to reopen the rails.
Iowa Pacific said there is no timetable for operations to begin. Railroad crews have begun brush-cutting and survey work on the short line.
The company said the rusty tracks leading from North Creek to Tahawus will need repair and cleaning before they can be used again.
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