116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
A railroad has agreed to pay $625,000 to mitigate environmental damage caused in July 2008 when four diesel locomotives plunged into the Mississippi River near Guttenberg.
The consent decree settlement is the result of lengthy negotiations between the Canadian Pacific Railroad, the parent company of the derailed train, and representatives of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
A portion of a Dakota Minnesota and Eastern Railroad train left the tracks on July 9, 2008, when a boulder dislodged by heavy rains tore up a section of the track near the river about two miles south of Guttenberg.
Four diesel locomotives tumbled into the river, where they leaked an estimated 4,400 gallons of diesel fuel before the last of them was removed a week later.
Booms were deployed to contain the discharged oil, and fabric pads were used to absorb floating oil, but some sank to the river bottom and attached to vegetation.
Joe Sanfilippo, a senior environmental specialist with the DNR, said the derailment was caused by an act of nature and that the railroad acted responsibly in the aftermath of the accident.
'The money in the settlement is strictly for restitution and involves no fines or penalties,” he said.
Sanfilippo said a portion of the funds has been earmarked for the acquisition and re-engineering of blufftop property above the site of the derailment to reduce the likelihood of another similar accident in the future.
Another portion of the funds, he said, will be used to restore and restock a mussel bed that was damaged by the locomotives and the efforts to remove them from Bluff Slough, the Mississippi backwater into which the locomotives fell.
Efforts to remove the engines were hampered by the remote location and flooding on the Mississippi.
DNR biologists said the spilled oil did not kill many birds or fish, but it resulted in the loss of mussels that are considered endangered and threatened species.
Nathan Eckert, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at Genoa, Wis., said a careful examination of the substrate found traces of oil five years after the spill.
Eckert, a mussel specialist, said a pre-restoration survey last year found evidence of what he described as 'a mussel bed in recovery.”
The survey identified more than 22 mussel species including the federally endangered Higgins eye pearly mussel, as well as five state-listed species, he said.
Eckert said natural recruitment will be sufficient to bring the common mussel species back to pre-spill population levels.
'We will likely focus propagation and restocking efforts on listed species that were present but in smaller numbers,” he said.