BISMARCK, ND (KXNET) — A question over the legality of the permits issued to BNSF Railway to build a new railroad bridge across the Missouri River and tear down the 140-year-old existing railroad bridge was argued before the North Dakota Supreme Court Thursday afternoon.
Though most of the arguments were tied down in statutes, proper procedures and the difference between adjudicative and administrative hearings, the focus was simple: Did a district court err in turning down an appeal by Friends of the Railroad Bridge (FORB) challenging the way in which the permits were issued to BNSF?
FORB argued that the North Dakota Department of Water Resources, which issued the permits, did not follow proper law by failing to send the matter to the North Dakota Historical Society Board for review.
The group also argued their long-standing contention that the state of North Dakota has jurisdiction and control over the bridge because it is on land and riverbed that is state land.
Attorney William Delmore also argued the bridge is historical and iconic, pointing out that President Grover Cleveland, Teddy Roosevelt and Sitting Bull all crossed the bridge at one time or another and that the bridge served a role in the opening the West. He suggested the bridge is as iconic as the Eiffel Tower or the Alamo and shouldn’t be torn down.
Friends of the Railroad Bridge also asked that the North Dakota Supreme Court issue a directive sending the permits back to the ND Water Resources to properly hold hearings and submit the process to the North Dakota Historical Society Board.
Attorneys for the Department of Water Resources and BNSF Railway essentially argued all the processes were properly followed and it was Friends of the Railroad Bridge who failed to follow the process and file the paperwork necessary to challenge the permits.
Attorneys argued there was only one issue before the high court to decide: Was the district court wrong to dismiss appeals by the Friends of the Railroad Bridge — nothing else was under review.
After nearly an hour of debate, the court took the case under advisement. The court typically issues a decision in about two weeks after oral arguments.