Draft EIS Falls Woefully Short Addressing Negative Impacts

Publish Date: 
Saturday, December 6, 2014 - 7:15am

Maybe the effort put into the draft environmental impact statement for the All Aboard Florida high-speed passenger rail project along the state’s east coast was simply sloppy. Maybe it was lazy. After all, its authors were creating just a “draft.”

No way it could have been deliberately inadequate and misleading, right?

Whatever the reason, the report prepared for the project has been justifiably met by citizens and governmental bodies along the Treasure Coast with emotions ranging from bewilderment to anger.

Because of that failure, governments representing the counties of Indian River, St. Lucie and Martin have raised objections to the draft report and urged that a second environmental impact statement be prepared to address impacts not included in the initial report. It’s a reasonable request. In fact, the counties’ commissions are so concerned they plan to take the rare step of meeting together to discuss the project.

However, it’s awfully difficult to comment on whether proposed mitigation projects associated with the All Aboard Florida passenger service are adequate when the potential negative impacts are either ignored or misrepresented. Those impacts need to be included in the report and mitigation proposals outlined for additional public comments before any final actions might be taken by the Federal Railroad Administration.

Describing St. Lucie County, for example, as “low density residential and undeveloped lands” when the train would pass through the heart of historic downtown Fort Pierce and failing to cite negative impacts anticipated in the downtowns of Vero Beach and Stuart are perplexing at best.

If any effort was made to contact and receive input from local government elected officials and transportation and engineering departments, it’s not evident considering how much information readily available from those sources is omitted from the environmental impact statement.

That should not be allowed to happen by the Federal Railroad Administration or any other body with any oversight of the project.