Utah rail line might make its way through Moffat County, Craig | CraigDailyPress.com

Utah rail line might make its way through Moffat County, Craig

Utah's Seven County Infrastructure Coalition is considering a rail line that might pass through Moffat County.
Courtesy Photo

A new railway route servicing the energy sector could make its way through Moffat County near Craig.

In a notice of intent filed June 19 with the federal Surface Transportation Board, the Seven County Infrastructure Coalition in Utah announced it is considering a 185-mile stretch of railroad from Myton, Utah to Craig. The Craig route is one two alternative routes being considered by the coalition.

“The other proposed alternative would extend eastward from the terminus points near Myton and Leland Bench to a connection with a UP rail line near Craig, Colorado, and would cross Uintah and Duchesne Counties in Utah, as well as Moffat and Rio Blanco Counties in Colorado (Craig Route),” the coalition said in its notice, which asks for a public comment period and to begin the process of an environmental impact statement.

According to a Uintah Basin Standard and Vernal Express report last month, the initial cost estimates released by the coalition were in the $5 billion range for the Indian Canyon route, which would include a three-mile long tunnel near the summit. However, that estimate was recently revised to $1.5 billion by the coalition’s financial partner Drexel Hamilton, a New York investment bank that pledged between $5 million and $15 million toward completion of the rail line, the Utah media reported.

In a June 14 news release, the coalition announced it received a $21.4 million grant from the Utah Community Impact Board to pay for the environmental impact statement.

“The state grant will enable the coalition to move forward with the project’s regulatory review, including the U.S. Surface Transportation Board’s preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement,” the coalition said in the news release. “The private partner, Drexel Hamilton Infrastructure Partners, LP, will finance construction of the railway, and has formed a joint venture with Rio Grande Pacific Corporation for operation and maintenance of the railway. The Coalition and Drexel Hamilton are also continuing discussions with the Ute Indian Tribe as a potential equity partner to the project.”

Drexel Hamilton is going to work bringing stakeholders in Utah and Colorado together to get the line built.

“We’re travelling all over the country talking to producers about how this railway will meet their needs and the marketplace is eager to have additional options for access to the unique commodities being produced in the Uintah Basin,” said Mark Michel, managing partner at Drexel Hamilton, in the news release.

In its notice of intent, the coalition said multiple trains will use the railway to carry mostly energy-related cargo.

“The Coalition anticipates that shippers would use the proposed rail line to transport crude oil, gilsonite, coal, and other mineral and agricultural products out of the Uintah Basin to markets across the United States,” the notice of intent said. “The proposed rail line could also be used to move products and commodities, such as fracturing sand, proppant, steel, and machinery, to markets in the Uintah Basin. Based on current market conditions, the Coalition estimates that approximately seven trains would move along the proposed rail line per day, on average, including loaded and unloaded trains, or 3.5 trains per day in each direction.”

Moffat County Commissioners have the rail line on their radar. In their Tuesday, June 25 meeting, commissioners approved a letter to the Surface Transportation Board demanding they be consulted after the surface transportation board invited only “entities with federal permitting jurisdiction to participate as cooperating agencies.”

The letter goes on to assert Moffat County “has significant experience working with energy transmission companies, natural gas developers, wind and solar energy, transportation planning, wildlife migration and sensitive species planning…” across multiple government agencies and “…only wishes to participate as a cooperating agency in order ensure that the issues germane to Moffat County are adequately addressed — for example socioeconomic analysis of Moffat County, permit issues, assessment and tax base analysis, and public land uses that may be impacted by the railway.”

Natural Resources Director Jeff Comstock and Office of Development Services Director Roy Tipton will participate in a conference call with the coalition at 2 p.m. Wednesday, July 10.

A public scoping meeting will be held a few days later from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 16 at the Moffat County Fairgrounds Pavilion.

The Uintah Basin Standard and Vernal Express reporter John Thompson contributed to this report.

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