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Group asks ND Supreme Court to stop BNSF from tearing down the 1883 railroad bridge between Bismarck and Mandan

Friends of the Rail Bridge

A group that wants to preserve the 1883 rail bridge over the Missouri River between Bismarck and Mandan is asking the state Supreme Court to stop the BNSF from tearing it down.

The railroad wants to replace the bridge. But the group “Friends of the River Bridge” is claiming the state of North Dakota owns that bridge, taking ownership when it became a state in 1889. Attorney William Delmore argued state law provides that any action taken involving state sovereign lands must be reviewed by the State Historical Society. And Delmore said both the former director and the current director of the Historical Society said the bridge is a historical site.

"We cannot believe someone would tear down an 1883 bridge," Delmore argued. "We here in the west, particularly in Bismarck, have nothing of this type. This is it — this is our history."

Delmore said the High Court should rule on ownership, and that the court should order a stay or an injunction, to have BNSF stop work on the new bridge. Counsel for the railroad opposed that.

"There is no question here, I think, that any conveyance to the state of North Dakota in 1889 would be subject to BNSF's predecessors, and BNSF's successor — their superior interest set forth in the 1864 grant to operate, construct, and use and maintain a railway, and all necessary structures," said attorney Jason Lien.

The high court has taken that case under advisement.

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