The statewide chapter of the Sierra Club on Sunday gave its support to Attorney General Jay Nixon’s legal efforts to prevent removal of a historic railroad bridge at Boonville.
The Ozark chapter’s leadership voted to oppose plans by Union Pacific to dismantle the bridge and use parts of it elsewhere.
Nixon has sued the state Department of Natural Resources, and the legal case revolves around provisions in the 1987 contract that allowed the state to use the rail corridor for the cross-state Katy Trail State Park.
Ken Midkiff, conservation chair of the Ozark chapter, said the contract is clear.
“Union Pacific does indeed own the bridge, but there is absolutely no doubt that an easement was purchased by the state of Missouri. To now state that Union Pacific can remove the bridge and take parts of it to the Osage River is in violation of the 1987 contract,” Midkiff said.
Doyle Childers, director of the Department of Natural Resources, said after the lawsuit was filed that he interprets the contract to say the state does not have to utilize the option of keeping the bridge in its present location.
“The contract says the bridge may be modified to be used for rail transportation, but there are no specifics on how or where it has to be used,” he said.
Midkiff said the decision by Gov. Matt Blunt to let Union Pacific dismantle the bridge “jeopardizes the entire Katy trail. Without this bridge, there is no easement on this portion of the rail corridor, and without the bridge and the easement, the entire rails-to-trails or rail-banking agreement is in jeopardy,” he said.
The Department of Natural Resources has not yet issued a formal response to Nixon’s lawsuit.