Train Carrying Coal Derails in Feather River Canyon

By Dan Bacher

Plumas County, CA —A Union Pacific train carrying coal derailed in the canyon of the Middle Fork of the Feather River, a National Wild and Scenic River, on Sunday morning.

The incident involved 15 cars carrying 118 tons of coal, and an “undetermined amount” was released into the river, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (CalOES) reported. At least one car entered the river, a renowned wild trout fishery.

CalOES said that 13 of the 15 cars derailed released coal. The agency said the cause of the derailment was a “track defect,” — and there were no injuries, fatalities, or evacuations.

“Assessments will be underway to determine the environmental impact,” according to the Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR). 

“While in the short term coal is not expected to have significant aquatic toxicity impacts, it can potentially have smothering effects on organisms in the river,” OSPR stated.  “Cleanup operations continue and biologists are assessing potential ecological impacts and implementing impact avoidance and minimization measures as part of the response."

The incident occurred near Highway 70 and Camp Layman Road in Blairsden, Union Pacific told CBS13.

The Middle Fork is recognized by the US government for its wild beauty and is designated a National Wild and Scenic River for 77.6 miles of its length. The 32.9-mile stretch inaccessible to roads is home to some of the top wild trout fishing in California, according to Wikipedia. 

The nearly 100-mile-long stream drains about 1,062 square miles of the northern Sierra Nevada and flows into Lake Oroville, the linchpin of the Department of Water Resources’ State Water Project (SWP).

As more information is released, updates will be provided. 

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