(SANDPOINT) The U.S. Coast Guard announced today that Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway’s (BNSF) proposal to build a second rail bridge over Lake Pend Oreille can move ahead without further environmental review from the federal agency. 

The Idaho Conservation League requested the Coast Guard review the project in more detail by pursuing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).  An EIS would have more closely looked at the potential impacts and consequences of a second rail bridge, including the dangers and risks to public health and safety of transporting hazardous materials over the pristine lake and surrounding neighborhoods. 

“We’re extremely disappointed with the Coast Guard’s decision,” said Matt Nykiel, ICL’s conservation associate. “The Coast Guard ignored nearly 2,000 people who wanted a more thorough study of the project’s effects on air and water quality, public safety and health, the environment, and other factors, such as traffic and the economy.”

Plans for the second rail bridge first surfaced in 2014. BNSF estimates construction of the bridge to take at least 3 years. The project will be built parallel to the existing bridge.  As a structure over navigable waters of the United States, the bridge requires a Coast Guard permit. 

ICL recognizes the railroad is part of our community and contributes to our economy.  At the same time, Lake Pend Oreille is a crown jewel of the Gem State so ICL is concerned with the potential effects this massive expansion of rail infrastructure could have on our lake, our water and our way of life.