Take state's petition on railroad seriously

July 31, 2001 11:00 pm

Its good to see that some common sense is coming to bear on the question of whether to abandon the Elgin-to-Joseph railroad line and remove its rails for scrap.

The Idaho, Northern and Pacific Railroad, the lines owner, acted prematurely when it allowed a Montana firm, Klamert Railroad Salvage, to begin to remove the rails in June. The project was halted in Joseph when Wallowa County threatened an injunction. The county indicated that Klamert would have to obtain a conditional use permit to pull the rails. The salvage company cooperated and applied for the permit.

The effort to save the rails took on steam Friday when the Oregon Department of Transportation Rail Division petitioned the federal Surface Transportation Board to rule against abandoning the line and to set a price of $1.89 million so the state can purchase it.

The state is asking the Surface Transportation Board to reconsider a March 1997 decision to abandon the line, and with good reason.

Five years ago it appeared that industry in Wallowa County had lost interest in using the 62.58-mile railroad. But circumstances have changed since the abandonment order was issued. Lumber mills in Joseph and Wallowa have reopened, and owners have expressed interest in using the railroad to move logs and lumber in and out of their plants. Wallowa County Grain Growers and others have also shown interest.

Leaving the rails in place is the best option for the future of Wallowa County. In addition to industrys use of the line, maybe someone will come along who is willing to establish a train that would transport tourists from Elgin along the beautiful river canyon to Wallowa and on to Joseph. That could be a big hit.

Line abandonment and rail removal would rule out this and other opportunities. The Surface Transportation Board should give serious consideration to the states request.

Lay low on Levy story

The talking heads on television news shows have said just about as much as they can about the disappearance of Chandra Levy and any speculated role that Congressman Gary Condit of California had in her disappearance.

Morning talk show hosts and news commentators have wallowed in this story to ad nauseum. After searching buildings and combing parks, no one knows the whereabouts of Levy, the 24-year-old Washington aide who disappeared more than three months ago.

We know that Condit was less than forthcoming about his relationship with Levy. First the 53-year-old Democrat denied and then reportedly admitted to an affair with the woman. Any attempt on the medias part to tie Condit to the disappearance, however, is conjecture.

For the sake of Levy's family, the young womans memory and the nations sanity, the news shows should lay low on this story until there are legitimate developments to report.