My Word: Tell Virginia Bass today: ‘We need a freight corridor!’

railmeister Local Letters to the Editor

By KAREN BROOKS – Eureka Times Standard, November 3, 2018.

Where’s the industry, retail, and cannabiz to support our economy? Private sector businesses support our communities in more ways than just their taxes so it stands to reason that attracting and growing businesses would be a priority. What are our elected officials and economic development staff doing to encourage private sector businesses that provide those high paying jobs with benefits? Not enough.

As our economy and tax base continues to dwindle, we see the effects in too many greenbelts and along our city streets. While some may be doing okay, not enough can make ends meet and local governments are broke. If communities want essential services without an industrial base then taxpayers will just have to pay more, and more. How can we reverse this downward spiral?

As a member of the Humboldt Bay Harbor Working Group, we’ve been proposing our vision to our supervisors, commissioners and city councils since 2013. The 2012 Prosperity Update participants voted that the highest likelihood to create jobs rested in our revitalized harbor recommendations over all other projects. We believe that the region’s prosperity depends on a revitalized Humboldt Harbor and a multi-agency Unified Master Plan to attract the investment to modernize our terminals and related infrastructure, specifically a freight corridor. And while the work group was able to form that multi-agency committee it was shelved by those forementioned.

The 2018 Civil Grand Jury Report pinpointed the lack of a collaborative vision and follow through on the part of the supervisors’ governing priorities, as one of the main barriers to “greater community health and prosperity.” To rebuild our economy the county needs to take the initiative to invite the private investment needed to modernize our infrastructure.

Six years have languished since the Prosperity Update, so when I learned of a privately-financed, multi-billion dollar harbor project with hydrogen powered rail, high-tech marine container terminals and computerized freight hubs that connect to national rail near Red Bluff I was curious to learn more. In reading about their plans I knew our region desperately needs this freight corridor linking Asia with the Midwest and beyond.

So when I read opinions disparaging an east-west rail, in concept, as a “choo-choo” or “scheme,” I know the writers are too small minded to envision a project of this scope or worse, want the status quo to continue. It is negligent to dismiss any private investment project before specific details have been publicly proposed. If you’d like a more prosperous future, call Supervisor Virginia Bass at 707-476-2394. She is the supervisor of the Fourth District which is the heart of the harbor. Ask her if she thinks an east-west freight corridor could be the collaborative vision for a prosperous future.

We need a big vision, where Humboldt becomes a land bridge moving an estimated 10,000-plus containers weekly with a portion of all shipping, handling, and warehousing fees contributing to our economy and tax base while providing hundreds of high paying jobs in the process. Imagine the entire region benefiting from the value-added assembly and manufacturing a freight corridor attracts. Imagine moving freight by rail while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent as compared to trucks.

This is a global vision that puts Humboldt County, and every participating business park, on the Pacific Rim. Our Harbor would be funneling agriculture like silage, olive oil, nut meats, dried fruits, rice, grains, and more along with retail and manufactured goods. With private investment at our threshold wanting to modernize our crumbling docks and infrastructure why aren’t we rolling out the red carpet or at the very least asking for more information?

Our entire north state benefits from a freight corridor; we all see our area plagued with aging schools, pothole roads, poverty and homelessness, high-priced fuel, high taxes, high rents, struggling small businesses, low wages, vanishing health care and underemployment. If you could change this wouldn’t you try? I want to help. I believe in the possibility of a better future for my family and neighbors so I’m engaging my time, talent and treasure. You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. Join me.