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Urgent: Help Protect Browns Canyon and the Arkansas and Eagle River Valleys

Posted: 01/21/2021
By: Hattie Johnson

It’s hard to imagine what it would be like if up to 10 trains full of heavy crude oil and hazardous chemicals were rumbling by while paddling the Arkansas or Eagle Rivers. It would, without question, change the experience in negative ways, including opening up the opportunity for the major disturbances associated with any kind of derailment and spill of hazardous materials into the river.  We need your help today to protect these incredible places. This past New Year’s Eve, Colorado Midland and Pacific Railway filed a notice of exemption for lease and operations of the Tennessee Pass line that runs through the Eagle and Arkansas Valleys to Parkdale. You have two options to make your voice heard. We have created a sign on letter to be submitted along with American Whitewater’s’s technical comments. However, if you’ve got the time to go the extra mile, we’ve included detailed directions below to submit your own filing directly to the Surface Transportation Board. Please follow these directions carefully and copy if you decide to file your own comments. Comments are due by January 22 - please take action today! 


The last trains rolled through on the Tennessee Pass Line in 1997. Since that time, a significant outdoor recreation industry has flourished and population in the area has increased dramatically. When Browns Canyon was designated as a national monument in 2015, the intention was to preserve its nationally significant recreational, scenic and natural values. Restarting regular train traffic through the monument would negatively impact these values. If you take into account the potential for derailments - several accidents on the line played a role in the decision to stop use of the line in ‘97 - the threat of an oil spill in the Eagle or Arkansas Rivers makes this proposal unacceptable. 


The connection between Colorado Midland and Pacific Railway’s proposed rail line in Utah’s Uintah Basin and their recent confidential lease agreement to utilize the Tennessee Pass line has many questioning if the company would use the route along the Eagle and Arkansas Rivers to move heavy crude oil from northeast Utah to refineries along the Gulf Coast. After inking a deal with Union Pacific, Colorado Midland and Pacific Railway (CMPR) filed for an exemption with the federal Surface Transportation Board that would allow them to avoid regulations required of new and heavy operations.


CMPR’s exemption claims that they are, “leasing the line from UP for continued rail operations,” and that the transaction will not result in an increase of rail traffic. Both claims seem at best inaccurate for a line that hasn’t been in operation for 24 years. The exemption process CMPR filed under is clearly indicated for transactions that are “routine” and “non-controversial”. Please help us let the Surface Transportation Board know the proposed operation through Browns Canyon and the Eagle and Arkansas Valleys is controversial and that there is significant concern regarding this project within the paddling community. Comments are due by January 22 - only 7 days left to take action! 


Directions to submit a filing on the Colorado Midland and Pacific Railway application for a lease and operation exemption:

**Following these directions is a formal filing and will make you a part of the process. You should expect to receive emails of notification when other parties file. 

  1. Go to the following Link:
  2. Go to the bottom of that page and click on the box that says you have complied with all the requirements of electronic filing (Click “Yes”).
  3. Enter Docket Number FD 36471 (Use arrows to select FD) at top of page.
  4. No Fee is required to file. (Click “no fee required” from drop down).
  5. Type in your personal data information. If filing as an individual use your name for “company”.
  6. Select “choose file“ and attach your comment letter which must be in PDF format, and the file name cannot contain spaces.
  7. Writing your letter:
  • Address your PDF letter to:


Cynthia Brown

Chief, Section of Administration

Surface Transportation Board Office of Proceedings

395 E Street, SW

Washington, DC 20423


    • Reference Docket No. FD 36471 in subject line.
    • Copy "Parties of Record" at bottom of the letter.
      • At the bottom or your PDF letter, simply put: CC: Parties of Record
    • The webpage says you must serve all parties of record. You can send your filing to these parties by email.
  • Also send a copy of your letter to hattie@americanwhitewater


American Whitewater

Hattie Johnson

Phone: 970-456-8533
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Browns Canyon

Colorado's Browns Canyon of the Arkansas River is a Mecca for outdoor recreation, and the nations most popular whitewater paddling destination.

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