The subject of the Chowchilla Wye came up at the Authority Board Meeting January 23, 2012.. This section was supposed to studied as part of the Madera to San Jose segment not being completed at this time since the board certified that the first initial operating segment would go South toward Los Angeles.
Suddenly it appears that the Authority may attempt to incorporate this missing Chowchilla Wye section not yet studied into the first segment being built which is already cleared environmentally. How? With a supplement environmental impact Report (EIR) or a subsequent EIR. It appears this is a big problem.
Anja Raudabaugh, Executive Director for the Madera County Farm Bureau testified at the meeting about this item. This is a near verbatim commentary she made at the meeting yesterday.
“I’ve come to address item #2, Supplemental Analysis regarding the Chowchilla Wye. I represent about 40% of the effected stakeholders in the Chowchilla region. None of them have been informed of this new analysis strategy, None of them have received any stakeholder outreach regarding a supplemental or subsequent EIR and we find that really appalling.
The staff report for agenda number 2, in case the staff is seeking the board’s blessing for a new strategy regarding the Wye analysis in efforts to comply with CEQA - either a supplemental or subsequent EIR. They are two very different things and I’d like to know which one is it?
Staff appears to have lumped them together as one in the same, they are certainly not the same. Additionally there is a new major problem with this plan. Is it a supplemental or subsequent EIR to what? The Merced to Fresno EIR? This can’t possibly be legal. Since there is a pending legal challenge to that EIR that EIR cannot be deemed adequate and supplementing the Merced to Fresno EIR also can’t possibly be the case because it implies that the CEQA analysis has already occurred for the Chowchilla Wye box.
This board directed staff in 2011 not to analyze the Chowchilla Wye box, remember?. And now the staff report is suggesting that you are going analyze it through a supplemental when there was never an analysis in the first place. It also can’t be legal that a CEQA required in black and white, the analysis be performed first and only then can you have a subsequent. If you don’t believe me, I know you have some very expensive hired guns that you can consult with.
The staff report seeks to do is to expand the Chowchilla Wye box to a further more distant western boundary. 
The Red Top area has the highest rate of subsidence in the world. 3X that which toppled New Orleans after Katrina. So I’ve provided the board with a department of water resources map that shows the average rate of subsidence is 18” per year. The Merced to Fresno EIR says says the subsidence was an insignificant issue. This is a serious issue and one you should be concerned about.
I am asking the board to look at this strategy because it doesn’t make sense you us, representing many, many stakeholders involved in this process.
First you ask staff not to analyze an area that’s as large as one of the Hawaiian islands and now you promised that that area would get the level of analysis it desperately needs in a brand new EIR - Merced to San Jose. Now you are asking us to brush our concerns aside as you roll it up in a subsequent or supplemental EIR. This strategy is not acceptable to us. “
She requests more meetings about the initial construction segment, the Initial Operating Segments and the first Construction package since it’s difficult for the people to get to Sacramento.
Richard said that item was an informational item and no action will be taken today. Discussion will continue in the closed session.
The powerpoint presentations for the January 23rd board meeting are now posted. The Wye update slide 9 says next steps are to “Release Draft Merced to Fresno Subsequent EIR/Supplemental EIS for the Wye” in August 2013. They divided the next steps as follows:
Next steps – Central Valley Wye Alternatives
Next steps - San Jose to the Wye (expecting a NOD/ROD in Fall 2016)
From the Briefing Memo it appears they are accelerating the Wye development and attempting to rejoin it to the Madera to Fresno section.
On May 3, 2012, the Board certified the Merced to Fresno High-Speed Train Project EIR/EIS, which identified the Hybrid as the preferred north-south alignment alternative between Merced and Fresno. The FRA issued its Record of Decision (ROD) for the document on September 18, 2012. Neither the Authority nor the FRA identified a preferred alternative for the Wye connection to the west as part of the Merced to Fresno decision, acknowledging that this evaluation would occur as part of the San Jose to Merced Section EIR/EIS.
In September 2012, staff provided the Board with an update on the process being followed to gather both resource agency and stakeholder input to refine the Wye alternatives. The Board directed staff to return with an additional update prior to presenting the Supplemental Alternatives Analysis (AA).
In the summer of 2013, the Authority intends to begin construction of the first section of the Initial Operating Segment (IOS) which ultimately will extend 130 miles between Madera (Ave 17) and the northern outskirts of Bakersfield. Given the favorable economic climate and the potential for receiving construction bids below the engineers’ estimate, the Authority has been considering options for extending the ICS construction limits to Merced in the north. To reach Merced and build this portion of the track by September 2017, however, the Authority would need to accelerate the identification of a preferred Wye alternative in the vicinity of Chowchilla.
The presentation to the Board will lay out an approach for achieving this goal, including the steps necessary for preparing a Merced to Fresno Subsequent EIR/Supplemental EIS. The SEIR/SEIS would evaluate a set of Wye alternatives located in a geographic area that extends from Carlucci Road to the west, Ranch Road to the north and Ave 17 to the south (the connection point to Construction Package #1).
Which way will the Authority go as they struggle to begin construction on the first segment? The question is will it hold up in court or will it just hold them up?