by Ryan Burns
Eureka kazillionaire Rob Arkley made some surprising revelations yesterday in a radio interview on KINS radio. Here are the biggest ones:
1) What Marina Center?
"Frankly it's not my priority right now given the east-west rail," he says.
2) Arkley's company -- not the City of Eureka -- is the lead agency on the east-west rail project.
"It looks like Security National is gonna be -- we've got the community support and the governmental support. And we're probably going to be hiring an investment banker ourselves who will be negotiating," he says.
3) Eureka can stop trying to garner support and financing for a feasibility study.
Arkley says that an unnamed private company will now handle it. He's coy about identifying which one: "We know who we're gonna be negotiating with on the entire project," he says before offering a hint. "Someone who operates ports and rails -- think about the biggest one in the world." He continues, "We're going to be giving them an exclusive on the project from our perspective for a year while they do their own studies and try to reverse-engineer users."
4) Arkley could pay for the railroad himself if he wanted to.
"We [Security National] made the determination that our 300 acres is enough to justify the entire rail," he says. "Our 300-acre Fairhaven site is enough to justify the entire rail expenditure."
5) The only potential export product he'll identify is lumber.
Canada has a lock on container shipping, so that's out, Arkley says. Host Brian Papstein asks the billion-dollar question: What will be shipped on these hypothetical trains? "Oh, we'll export lumber," Arkley answers. Never mind that the industry is a fraction of what it used to be, or that the county's own economic development coordinator says, "They're happy with trucks." Arkley predicts that lumber exports will somehow exceed the volumes shipped south in the industry's heyday, in part by opening up a "market for central valley mills." Confusingly he adds, "Same thing on import."
6) The proposed route has changed.
Rather than ending up in Alton, Arkley now says, "We're talking about going around Korbel and ending up in Anderson [in] an hour and a half, out South Fork Mountain."
7) Mark Lovelace and "his ilk" are obstructing the train.
Papstein asks, "Why hasn't it happened yet?" apparently referring to permitting, financing, engineering and completing the largest infrastructure project the county has seen in decades. "I think because the Harbor District wants to study it," Arkley answers. Also, County Supervisor "Mark Lovelace doesn't want it, and a few of his minority ilk."
The Harbor District has expressed no intention to study the east-west rail project, specifically. Its commissioners are currently doing fact-finding on multiple rail connection possibilities, including the North Coast Railroad Authority's defunct north-south line. Arkley doesn't explain how this is hindering the project.
"I guess the Harbor District wants to do their own study and I don't get that at all," he says. "I mean, why? We own the land. We're going to get the rail done through a contract. If the Harbor District wants to develop its port, why don't they let us lead?" He laughs. "And then they can see what they can do."
Lovelace has not publicly opposed the project but has expressed skepticism about its feasibility. The Board of Supervisors has heard two items related to the east-west rail project -- a proposal to draft a resolution of support and a proposal to join the UpState RailConnect Committee. Both were approved.