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Environmental group appeals BNSF second bridge permit

An environmental group is appealing an Idaho Department of Lands encroachment permit granted for a second BNSF Railway Co. bridge.

Court records show Wild Idaho Rising Tide filed the action July 20 in 1st District Court, the Bonner County Daily Bee reported .

Helen Yost, a member of the Wild Idaho Rising Tide group, argues in the appeal that a second bridge across Lake Pend Oreille will put water resources, air quality, wildlife habitat, indigenous rights, navigation, tourism and recreation at risk.

The group believes the bridge will increase noise and pollution, in addition to the potential for accidents and derailments involving fossil fuels and hazardous materials.

It also fears the project will increase inorganic, volatile organic and synthetic organic chemicals in the lake, which serves as a source of drinking water for about 10,000 people in the Sandpoint area in northern Idaho.

“Through the final and preliminary orders’ apparent dismissal of local concerns over this project, railroad pursuit of profit, at the expense of rail line communities’ environmental and economic wellbeing, unfortunately persist in the Idaho Panhandle, in stark contrast to state of Idaho obligations to uphold the public trust,” Yost said in the appeal.

Supporters of the second bridge have argued the project will facilitate commerce and reduce blockages of at-grade railroad crossings in Bonner County.

The legal action calls for a judicial review of the permit’s issuance.

The department is reviewing a copy of the petition, and will consult the Idaho Administrative Procedure Act, the Lake Protection Act and the Idaho Rules of Civil Procedures to determine the next steps to take, said Idaho Department of Lands Public Information Officer Sharla Arledge in a statement released Wednesday.

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