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Debra Smith | dsmith@heraldnet.com
Published: Wednesday, May 2, 2012, 8:19 a.m.

Why the railroad doesn't have to listen to the city

I received several calls and emails yesterday after a story I wrote on tree cutting rules was published. The story talked about why Everett homeowners aren't allowed to cut or even prune trees on their own property, if that property happens to be on a steep slope or near a stream or wetland. The city is trying to come up with some way to do that and still meet state mandates.

Many questions I received sounded like this one sent by email from Judy Oberg of Everett:

"Last spring, 2011, the railroad, as part of 'slide mitigation,' cut down numerous trees on the bank in front of our home and others. No permission from homeowners was asked, and the trees were wacked down very low to the ground (as opposed to the topping-for-view style of cutting that many residents have traditionally used). We could hear the chainsaws going for several days, and I was appalled.

"How come the railroad can cut trees willy-nilly to prevent slides, and the city says trees must be left alone to prevent slides? These policies contradict each other."

She's talking about Burlington Northern Santa Fe clearing the railroad's right of way along W. Marine View Drive, just north of 10th Street. I plan to ask about the apparent contradiction in the science -- that baffles me too. As for the railroad's ability to cut trees without a permit, Everett's planning director said this a few weeks ago at a public meeting: "We can't do anything about that. They are the railroad."

The railroad is protected by decades-old federal laws designed to promote interstate commerce. And that, apparently, is that.
Story tags » EverettRailroad

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