Opposition continues to mount against rail line
Mounting opposition continues to grow against the proposed rail line that may cross through Matagorda County.
Rob Giesecke, a resident of Brazoria County, has been fighting against the Freeport to Kendleton railroad project for the past two years.
“I first wrote about this last week, but false data is still on the rail district website,” Giesecke said on a Rail No! Facebook group site. “They say a ‘mistake’ was made in the 2015 study that was used to justify the railroad project and obtain a taxpayer-funded grant from TxDOT. All right, we all make mistakes. But why was it put on their website even after they were told about it, and why is it still there? I also fact-checked one of their other claims.
“Continuing to disseminate false information cannot be dismissed as a mere “mistake” - it appears to reflect an attitude that ‘anything goes’ as long it justifies Port Freeport’s railroad,” Giesecke said. “The Brazoria and Fort Bend county commissioners may not have been in a position to notice a 1,000 percent error in Port Freeport’s container traffic, but the folks who run the Port certainly knew the truth, yet they said and did nothing to correct the record.”
Giesecke’s comments come on the heels of comments made by Matagorda County resident’s Jim Parmer expressing his disapproval of the proposed rail line during a Brazoria-Fort Bend Rail District meeting.
Parmer, owner of Hickory Bayou Ranch in Matagorda County, said his ranch borders Linnville Bayou. This bayou would be bisected by one of the proposed routes.
Parmer said this route would adversely affect the rich lowland wildlife area that includes nesting eagles, alligators, deer and ducks.
“The activities of the Brazoria-Fort Bend Rail District have recently come to my attention,” Parmer said. “This group proposes a short line rail system from Freeport to Rosenberg utilizing land and assets not owned by this private group. The purported economic value is for the group’s own economic benefit.
“All the information that I have seen boasts of economic value for Brazoria and Fort Bend County,” Parmer said.
Parmer was referring to a rail line route that runs through Matagorda County.
“This route would destroy the economic value of my family property, Hickory Bayou Ranch, west of Linnville Bayou,” Parmer said. “As you know, Linnville Bayou and the surrounding lands offer an array of wildlife, including eagles, alligators, ducks, and much more.
“Further, this is a very sensitive flood plain which will easily be compromised by rail beds and the accompanying rail activities. In short, this sensitive natural area will be destroyed by this project,” Parmer said. “The Brazoria-Fort Bend Rail District touts various alleged potential economic benefits without ever acknowledging the real economic harm directly relating to the project. I will lose my active hunting and cattle businesses, as well as significant land value; the proposed route goes directly through my home and farm buildings.”
Parmer said that if the proposed rail line goes through, both Matagorda and Brazoria counties would suffer loss of wildlife and conservation area.
“For the record: My hunting business is not for sale; my ranching business is not for sale; and my land is not for sale,” Parmer said. “I respectfully ask Matagorda County commissioners to help thwart this assault on the lands of Matagorda County.”
Louis Peter, who is representing Matagorda and Wharton County residents in coalition opposed to the rail line, spoke out against the proposed rail line during a recent meeting of the Matagorda County Rural Rail Transportation District.
Peter, who is a lifelong resident of Matagorda County and lives in the Cedar Lane community that is projected to be impacted by the rail line.
“That community in Matagorda County is directly in the path of this railroad,” Peter said. “What concerns us about this railroad is the lack of involvement by our citizens and county officials in the routing and planning phases. I personally understand the need for the project as originally planned, a direct rail route along Hwy. 36 from the Port of Freeport to the Rosenberg rail terminal to reduce traffic on Hwy. 36.
“However, residents of Brazoria and Fort Bend County and some of their elected officials recognized this project as a dumpster fire and are now trying to sneak it into our community,” Peter said. “Our coalition recognizes adding 12 miles to this project to run it through Matagorda and Wharton is environmentally and fiscally irresponsible.”
The Texas Transportation Commission approved a $600,000 federal grant earlier this year to the Brazoria Fort Bend Rural Rail District to study the economics of a new 65-mile rail line connecting the Port of Freeport with a proposed railway logistics facility near Rosenberg.
That study forecast waterborne freight entering the Port of Freeport would increase from 1.1 million containers in 2014 to 3.2 million in 2035.
The study also identified the need for additional inland rail and highway infrastructure to efficiently handle the projected increase in traffic.
MC Rural Rail Transportation District President Tim Powell stated that the FB/BC Rail District has gained a $600,000 grant from TxDOT for a feasibility study for the proposed project but Matagorda County Judge Nate McDonald said that is not near enough to fully invest into a study on this project.
Powell questioned if the FB/BC Rail District would have to gain permission from Matagorda County before the rail line could be placed in the county and Matagorda County EDC Director Mike Ferdinand said he would have to look into that and get back with the district.
“I was approached back in March about this project and asked to reach out to our railroad users to see if their were any potential users that might benefit from this rail line,” Ferdinand said. “Our manufactures informed them possibly but they were too early in the planning process to share any detailed information and it has been quiet since then.”