I have been very vocal about my objections to Union Pacific’s proposal to clean up the abandoned rail yard in Ashland.
However, based on the detailed information provided at the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) meeting last Wednesday, and further investigation, I have changed my position.
It is certainly unfortunate and very frustrating that DEQ and the Department of Justice did not enforce the higher standards of cleanup that were required and were offered many years ago. It was a missed opportunity. However, at this point DEQ cannot force Union Pacific Railroad to do more than is currently federally required.
Judging the current proposal on that basis, it is not as unreasonable as I had first concluded:
- Doing nothing, leaving all of the land unusable is a poor option.
- Almost 9 acres could become available to hopefully be developed as “Mixed Use” development, or “Urban Residential” — which now allows for first floor residential.
- We desperately need additional housing in Ashland. This property could be zoned for 170 or more condos or apartments and could incorporate ground-level recreational open space.
- The low volume of contaminated soil on the 9-acre site could likely go into the low places of the 3-acre parcel, as proposed, without creating a hill, as I had feared.
- Capping both sites with 1 foot of soil and plant cover, as proposed, is certainly much better than the currently exposed contaminated soil.
- Union Pacific will pay for and coordinate all of the work, and it is scheduled to proceed quickly.
- DEQ will monitor the cleanup.
Considering all of the above, I have reconsidered and have concluded that the current Union Pacific proposal, as presented by DEQ, is reasonable and would definitely benefit Ashland.