Railroad MUGSHOT I

By Mary Ann Inman


CLINTON – “No eminent domain for private gain,” was the message repeated by many locals who filled the Clinton High School commons area on Wednesday, April 6. Many signed petitions, picked up township maps, and registered to receive more information.

Prior to and after the informational forum many locals gathered around the enlarged poster size Rock County township maps. People shared their concerns. If the rail didn’t cross his or her property, more than likely it crossed family members’ and/or neighbors’ properties.

Mark Melin explained that many people don’t realize how this will affect Rock County. He believes awareness is key. There is a need for individual and collective voices to inform landowners about this for profit private rail transportation of coal, grain, oil, and other commodities.


The proposed route comes through Boone County, Ill. and enters Wisconsin near the Rock and Walworth counties intersection and ends at Highway 59 near Milton. The trains will travel up to 70 miles per hour.

The rail will use 21.4 acres per mile and take away 545 acres of land in Rock County. It will go either over or under County J, I-43, Highway 140, County J, as well as other county roads and state highways.

Some trains consisting of tank cars could carry up to 2.25 million gallons of oil. The rail will change rural landscape and add noise to county communities.

Farm equipment crossings and nature trails could be exposed to trains moving at 70 mph without warning (no horns). Adding to this list of concerns, it will create very few permanent jobs and permanent loss of agricultural income in Rock County.

Two Madison attorneys spoke to the large crowd about the complicated process of eminent domain being far removed from common sense. There are two separate application statutes that can be used to file. The two methods differ but both are complex.

Experts may be needed to testify. Organized groups and individuals are needed to talk positively and intelligently. The best strategy for those opposed to the rail is to stop private interests from obtaining the permits. This process could take years.

Clinton Fire Chief John Rindfleisch, Representative Amy Loudenbeck, and Pat Mullooly expressed their concerns about safety, farmland preservation, and conservation.

Archie Morton Jr, of the Farm Bureau said the organization has voted unanimously against the project. The Bureau has two full time lobbyists. Although this is a private for profit issue, individuals can write letters to State and Federal elected officials.

Ken Luety said, “This is like a bad dream. The rail will divide my land into three sections. I see Dan Huisheere here. The rail will run within a mile of his house. We (as a group) have made some progress, by setting up a post office box, Facebook (with 26,000 likes), township presentations, television, radio, and newspaper coverage. T-shirts and yard signs will help show shared concern. Signs can be picked up at Hahn’s Ace Hardware.”

Marcia Luety informed the crowd about an important meeting on Monday, April 18, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at Craig High School in Janesville. The scoping meeting’s purpose is to provide the public with information on the proposed action, the environmental review process, and to solicit comments on the scope and content of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

Marcia Luety and Mark Melin showed the crowd, via Power Point, about using the online Surface Transportation Board website. Marcia stressed the importance of using the docket number FD 35952 in all forms of communication.

Mirjam Melin noted, “Active involvement in preventing the Great Lakes Basin rail line from building this rail line is crucial. Letters to the Safety Transportation Board requesting thorough research in the need for this new rail line as well as research regarding the short and long term economic implications on taxes, farm land, etc. are paramount.”

Mirjam added instructions about writing letters. There is no limit on the number of letters, you can send a letter every day. You may want to choose a different concern each day. She noted that the docket number FD 35952 needs to on the envelope and the letter. Write letters to the Surface Transportation Board voicing concerns about environmental issues.

Pat Mullooly stressed the importance of awareness and action prior the May 16 deadline (letters need to be mailed no later than May 9). He advised talking to your neighbors and friends. Beyond rendering land useless for farmers the rail will affect snowmobilers, hunters, and other outdoor sporting/activities.

A question and answer session concluded the presentation. Speakers made themselves available after the meeting and community conversations were buzzing due to heightened awareness. Packets of information are available for those unable to attend. Any community members mentioned in this article is available to answer your questions. You are welcome to stop in at Ace Hardware. Ask for Dan Hahn and pick up a sign.