At a recent board meeting of the California High Speed Rail Authority, an Agricultural Working Group brought together by the CHSRA released a series of white papers examining agricultural impacts in the Central Valley.
Overall, the papers found that high speed rail will not negatively impact agriculture in the Central Valley, including farms near the tracks. The papers are detailed and each is worth reading. A short summary of the key findings form each:
- Bee Pollination: Bees will not be affected by the brief 2 mph wind that passing trains will cause. Stronger winds that naturally affect the Valley are more of an issue.
- Induced Wind Impacts: Because winds induced by passing trains would not exceed 2 mph, there would be minimal impacts on blossoms, flowering trees, dust creation, or pesticide use.
- Dairy: Much more uncertain here. Dairy cows exposed to jet noise didn’t show any behavioral or productivity responses, but US testing on HSR impacts on dairy cows hasn’t been done in any great detail. Sudden, novel effects can have an impact, but cows also get used to it over time.
- Movement of Agricultural Equipment: This one is more general, noting the operating requirements for crossings of the tracks and that road modifications will be done to state and county standards.
- Irrigation: No irrigation water will be subject to extended outages, and irrigation can cross the right-of-way as needed. The cost of moving privately owned irrigation will be picked up by the Authority.
- Pesticides: No new pesticide regulations will be needed since there’s no significant wind that will be generated by the trains.
Overall, the white papers show that a high speed train won’t have the disruptive impact that many farmers claim it will have. It’s not the same as putting a jet engine on wheels in the middle of farms and its operations will have minimal – at best – impacts on agriculture. The laying of tracks will be physically disruptive, but that cannot be helped, and the impacts of that can be easily mitigated, just as the impacts of Interstate 5, irrigation canals, and surface streets has been mitigated.
The Authority plans to use these white papers as the basis of more detailed outreach to farmers in the Valley, and that’s a good move. Let’s hope farmers take the opportunity to learn the details and facts about the HSR system and its impacts. It’s clear that there will indeed be impacts – how can there not be – but they won’t be the dire or ruinous impacts that some have claimed.
Robert Cruickshank writes on California politics at Calitics and California High Speed Rail Blog. This article was originally published at California High Speed Rail Blog.