Local News

Monday, Apr 07 2014 06:57 PM

Kern River Parkway analysis omitted from high-speed rail environmental report, city says

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    By Casey Christie/ The Californian

    Two friends ride bicycles on a pathway along the Kern River Parkway in this 2011 photo.

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BY THEO DOUGLAS Californian staff writer tdouglas@bakersfield.com

The proposed route for California's bullet train would take it through the McMurtrey Aquatic Center parking lot, the south end of Mill Creek Linear Park, and across the Kern River Parkway, and city officials want a do-over.

In his weekly general information memorandum to the mayor and the Bakersfield City Council, City Manager Alan Tandy informed them he believes the California High-Speed Rail Authority's failure to properly analyze impacts to the city's parks and recreation facilities amounts to a violation of federal law.

"The High Speed Rail Authority failed to comply with federal law with respect to the draft (Environmental Impact Report) that has been circulating and which the HSR people claim is nearing the time to adopt," Tandy wrote. "This is a new item recently discovered and was not contained in our response to the draft document which was sent to them months ago."

During a recent discussion with state and federal rail officials, city officials realized the city had used federal Land and Water Conservation funds to create Kern River Parkway, making it a Section 6F resource according to the LWCF Act -- but rail officials had neither analyzed nor mentioned that in their draft EIR.

Because of this, Tandy told the mayor and the council the rail agency should do that analysis and then recirculate the draft EIR with it included -- but he doesn't think it will.

Tandy also reached out to the Federal Railroad Administration's Southwest Regional Manager Melissa Elefante DuMond one week ago.

Based on the city's review of the draft EIR, Tandy wrote DuMond April 1 that officials determined "the Kern River Parkway is not analyzed and/or mentioned."

"You're not supposed to take out parks and recreational facilities or historic structures if you have an alternative route that avoids them," Tandy said in an interview, noting he thinks McMurtrey Aquatic Center and Mill Creek could possibly be avoided, but "the river is a difficult one."

On Friday, DuMond wrote Tandy, letting him know the FRA is trying to confirm "city-verified boundaries of the Kern River Parkway ... in the high-speed train project vicinity" as well as "boundaries of the park property" that received the LWCF money, and Mill Creek boundaries.

The CHSRA's Deputy Director of Public Affairs Lisa Marie Alley said Monday the agency has complied with federal law and welcomes the city manager's input -- but it has seen no evidence the city got Section 6F money to create Kern River Parkway.

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