As C-Tran looks for ways to pay for operating light rail in Vancouver, an early analysis shows most of the recently explored options wouldn’t foot the bill by themselves.If they don’t pencil out, that would leave the agency right back where it started: pursuing a sales tax increase — and a November ballot measure — to pay for light rail.That’s the path C-Tran had long assumed until earlier this year, when Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt and others pushed for more study of funding sources that wouldn’t require a sales tax hike. Last month, the full C-Tran Board of Directors told agency staff to explore possible alternatives, while keeping an emphasis on a November ballot measure this year.C-Tran and the city of Vancouver have since looked at several possible options: an employer tax, a car rental sales and use tax, and a vehicle license fee among them. The agencies also evaluated using money from their respective general funds. In C-Tran’s case, that would require a change in board policy. Officials even included a “sales tax windfall” from the Columbia River Crossing — that is, using the extra tax revenue generated during construction of the $3.5 billion megaproject.By themselves, most of those examples appear to fall well short of covering the estimated $2.57 million annual cost to operate light rail in Clark County, according to a staff report form C-Tran Executive Director Jeff Hamm. An employer tax across C-Tran’s entire service district could collect as much as $3 million per year, but that’s a slow-growing revenue source not likely to keep pace with the rising cost of light rail over time, according to the report released Friday.
A federal appeals court issued an opinion today saying the roadless rule should not apply to Alaska’s Tongass National Forest.Download AudioThe Tongass National Forest could resume allowing logging in roadless areas under a court ruling. But it won’t happen immediately — or at all. (U.S. Forest Service Image)The rule was enacted nationwide more than a decade ago. It prohibits logging and other industrial activity in national forest lands without roads.The Tongass forest, the nation’s largest, was later granted an exemption. That was struck down three years ago in U.S. District Court and the rule was re-imposed.The Forest Service did not appeal that decision, but the state of Alaska did. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals granted its request. (Read the decision.)Tom Lenhart is the state attorney involved in the case.“Removal of the roadless rule won’t in and of itself increase timber harvests or mining or anything like that. But it will take down the barriers that are preventing some things from happening,” he says.The 9th Circuit Court’s decision does not immediately lift the rule. It sent the case back to the lower court to decide whether additional environmental review is needed.Buck Lindekugel is attorney for the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council. It’s one of a dozen groups that sued to bring back the roadless rule.“The reality is the decision does not immediately reinstate the Tongass exemption. And the Forest Service’s actions have shown it has no desire to go back to the damage, expense and controversy associated with roadless area logging on the Tongass,” he says.Forest Service officials referred calls about the ruling to the Department of Justice. The staffer handling the issue could not be reached for comment by this report’s deadline.Plaintiff’s attorney Tom Waldo of Earthjustice says the decision won’t change much. That’s because the Forest Service is already moving away from the type of timber sales the roadless exemption allows.“I think that’s where the future direction of the policy debate is going to lie, rather than trying to turn the clock back in time to fight the battle of the 1990s over whether we should be logging in roadless areas of old growth on the Tongass,” he says.The state has a different view.“We’re hoping the Forest Service will meet its obligations to seek to meet timber demand. And we feel that some sale from roadless areas is necessary to do that. I’m sure the state will continue to use every means available to encourage the Forest Service to take actions that will further a certain level of development,” says attorney Tom Lenhart.The state, the timber industry and other development groups have been pressuring the Forest Service to allow more logging.That includes a proposal for the federal government to turn over or sell some Tongass lands.