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A dilapidated portion of rail line in Humboldt County is part of what will become the Great redwood Trail. (Shaun Walker — The Times-Standard file)

Nearly eight years after two North Coast environmental groups filed lawsuits against the North Coast Rail Authority, a settlement was signed Wednesday that ends the legal battle which spanned from county courts in Marin County all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

All parties expressed relief that the legal matter was done.

“I am very happy to have our lawsuits in our rearview mirror,” Richard Marks, the chair of the NCRA’s board of directors, said today.

Lawsuits filed in July 2011 by the Friends of the Eel River and Californians for Alternatives to Toxics sought to set aside an environmental impact report that the groups alleged did not address the impacts of building the rail line.

“They did a lousy environmental impact report,” said Patty Clary, executive director of Californians for Alternatives to Toxics. “The corridor of the railroad is very toxic. It had a hundred years of being trashed. NCRA was trying to break the railroad up into sections for environmental review. We were there because the EIR was inadequate.”

The lawsuits were resolved in part by the state Supreme Court, which ruled for the environmental groups that the agency which was created by the state is under the state’s jurisdiction and it must comply with state law. NCRA had argued that it was only subject to federal law and appealed the state Supreme Court ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. That appeal was turned down.

The settlement agreed on this week means both environmental groups will drop their cases and the NCRA will be required to reimburse each group nearly $1 million for legal fees.

“These amounts represent only a portion of the total amount expended by CATS and FOER to date regarding this litigation, which total is roughly $2,000,000 per group as of this writing,” the settlement states.

Source: Rail authority, environmental groups reach settlement after nearly a decade of legal battle – Times-Standard