By Molly Moser
In response to the July 2008 derailment just outside of Guttenberg, the Dakota Minnesota and Eastern Railroad (a subsidiary of Canadian Pacific Railroad) agreed last week to pay $625,000 to settle a civil complaint filed by the state of Iowa and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Four diesel locomotives that derailed were submerged in the river for days, leaking over 4,000 gallons of diesel oil and other petroleum products. The leak caused floating slicks of oil across a 10-mile stretch of Bluff Slough.
"This settlement covers just a portion of the losses," said DNR Fisheries Biologist Karen Osterkamp, who estimates that recreational and ecological losses are much higher. Turtles, mudpuppies, water birds, mussels, and fish were impacted immediately, and the long term effect of the petroleum still in the sediment remains unknown. The settlement is expected to go into effect after a 30-day comment period, at which point dollars would be used for Mississippi restoration.
In May of this year, another accident involving the railroad and a single vehicle caused all but two of Guttenberg’s 13 railroad crossings to be blocked by train cars for an extended period of time. “At the same time, the Marina Road was closed because of high waters – so there was only one crossing open at the far south end of town,” said Guttenberg Mayor Russ Loven. “If there was a derailment affecting the same amount of the town we would have many challenges, especially if it were some type of volatile material.”