STB Key Cases, Medina County, TX
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Environmental Matters > Southwest Gulf Railroad in Medina County, TX

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Key Cases: Southwest Gulf Railroad, Construction and Operation, Abstract

On February 27, 2003, Southwest Gulf Railroad Company (SGR) filed a petition with the Surface Transportation Board (Board) seeking authority to construct and operate a new rail line in Medina County, Texas. SGR’s proposal involves the construction and operation of a short (approximately seven miles) new rail line from a Vulcan Construction Materials, LP (VCM) proposed limestone quarry to the Union Pacific Railroad Company (UP) rail line near Dunlay, Texas.

The Board’s Office of Environmental Analysis (OEA) (at the time, OEA was referred to the Section of Environmental Analysis or SEA) conducted a thorough and comprehensive analysis of all of the potential environmental impacts associated with construction and operation of the proposed new rail line and issued a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) on November 5, 2004 for public review and comment. The DEIS evaluated the potential environmental impacts that could result from SGR’s proposed rail line construction and operation, as well as four alternatives (including the No-Action Alternative) to SGR’s Proposed Route and recommended mitigation that could be undertaken to reduce the potential impacts identified. In response to the DEIS, OEA received approximately 120 written comment letters, as well as oral comments submitted at two public meetings held in Hondo, Texas, on December 2, 2004. After carefully reviewing all comments received, as well as additional information about the project proposal submitted by SGR, OEA decided to prepare a Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS). The SDEIS focused on three specific matters: (1) to seek to avoid potential impacts to the historically sensitive Quihi area, it evaluated three Eastern Alternative rail routes that were not studied in detail in the DEIS and compared these three alternative routes to the four rail routes previously studied in the DEIS and to the No-Action Alternative; (2) it discussed the progress of additional historic property identification; and (3) it provided additional noise analysis. The SDEIS was issued on December 8, 2006. In response to the SDEIS, OEA received 237 written comments.

Links to the DEIS and SDEIS

OEA reviewed all comments on the DEIS and the SDEIS and issued the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on May 30, 2008, which responded to the comments received. In response to concerns raised during the SDEIS process, the FEIS also presented the Modified Eastern Bypass Route. This route follows the same right-of-way as the Eastern Bypass Route, but deviates slightly to avoid several properties, and then connects to the Proposed Route in the southern end of the alignment before connecting to the UP main line.

OEA concluded that the Eastern Bypass Route, the Modified Eastern Bypass Route, and the MCEAA Medina Dam Alternative would be the environmentally preferred alignments, and recommended that the Board authorize all these routes, subject to a number of environmental mitigation measures. As explained in the SDEIS, the Eastern Bypass Route has fewer floodplain crossing points, crosses fewer aquatic features, has fewer total stream crossings, and is slightly shorter in length. The Modified Eastern Bypass Route avoids disruption to the irrigation systems and irrigated farmland operation of the Weiblen property and bypasses a newly developed housing subdivision called Castroville West. The MCEAA Medina Dam Alternative has slightly fewer impacts to transportation and traffic safety, crosses a smaller amount of floodplain, impacts less prime farmland soil, has less impact on karst features, has less overall impacts to existing land uses, and has slightly fewer impacts on cultural resources.

The Board issued the final decision approving the proposed rail line construction, including the DEIS, SEIS and FEIS, on December 18, 2008. The Board’s approval is subject to 81 environmental mitigation measures which address a number of environmental resource areas, such as groundwater; surface water and wetlands; traffic safety; noise and vibration; biological resources; air quality; land use; and historic preservation. These measures will minimize the potential adverse environmental effects of the proposed construction and operation. One condition requires compliance with a Programmatic Agreement, which was signed by all the necessary parties and sets out a process for addressing potential impacts to historic sites under the Eastern Alternatives. Two other mitigation measures require SGR to submit quarterly reports to OEA that document SGR’s progress in the implementation of all of the environmental mitigation measures during rail construction, and require that SGR retain a community liaison to work with the community in addressing any concerns related to SGR’s rail construction and operation activities.

Links to the Final EA and Board Decision

On January 30, 2015, SGR issued a news release indicating that it will be moving forward with its plans to construct and operate the rail line. SGR has established a web site to document the project’s progress.

Link to SGR’s web site