We have seen a lot of action from economic development groups lately, as well as the State Land Board, related to developing the Otter Creek coal tracts. Developing Otter Creek means building the Tongue River Railroad (TRR) as well. The TRR will cross my ranch, and it will most likely have to use eminent domain to cross my ranch and many of my neighbors. These economic development committees have been proceeding on projects that should have never been done. In Hardin, we see what happened when the economic development committee helped to get the Hardin jail built, and now it still sits empty.
I am for the economic development committees doing things that are good for the communities, but the TRR is not good for any communities. I am also concerned about my taxpayer dollars supporting an economic development committee that condones condemnation of private property. I don’t think the taxes I pay for the economic development folks should continue until they start working on projects that will truly help our communities. The TRR will open a route to Wyoming and help more Wyoming coal come through Montana. Montana jobs will be lost at the Sarpy mines and at Colstrip. The Otter Creek coal is in an alluvial valley, and most of it cannot be mined. Most likely there will not be any new jobs created at Otter Creek.
In regard to the bidding process going on at the State Land Board now, the action should be stopped. We hope that the rest of the board will learn from Juneau and Bullock before it is too late.