ublished Friday, May 29, 2020 7:08PM MDT
A group of Raymond, Alta. area farmers are hoping to gain public support for lobbying CP Rail to not sell off an unused rail line between Raymond and Stirling.
LETHBRIDGE, ALTA. — A group of Raymond area farmers are hoping to get public support, to stop a proposal by CP Rail to sell off an unused rail line between Raymond and Stirling.
The Raymond Irrigation District is also expressing concerns after learning the rail line may be used to park surplus rail cars.
When CP Rail quit using the rail line to Raymond 25 years ago, the portion west of the community was sold back to local landowners. But the 10 kilometers of track between Raymond and Stirling was left intact, and has become an eyesore full of weeds and broken fences.
The rail line cuts diagonally across Ryan Chipman’s farm, dividing fields, and limiting what Chipman can irrigate.
“It just makes the operation difficult,” said Chipman.
Chipman said he was hoping that someday, CP Rail would sell the railway right-of-way back to local landowners. But officials with the Raymond Irrigation District, said they’ve learned that the derelict line is being sold to Forty Mile Rail Inc., a short line rail company that operates out of Foremost.
RID General Manager Gordon Zobell said he fears the section of track will turn into a graveyard for unused rail cars, “Our understanding is that they are going to park cars here. Like they do in Picture Butte, through the middle of valuable agricultural land.”
Dozens of rail cars are currently parked along a CP Rail line that runs through Diamond City.
Raymond farmer Bob Grbavac said some of the farmers in the Raymond area have shared a fence line for over 100 years, and just want a say what happens to the right-of-way.
“We appreciate this land is not ours, and that the owner has the right to do with it as they will,” said Grbavac “but we would like to see the land remain in its best use, which is agriculture. This is prime irrigated agricultural land.”
The Raymond Irrigation District has met with area communities, and has asked for support from the County of Warner, but at this point, the county is not taking sides.
In a statement to CTV News, Reeve Randy Taylor said the county was pleased to see that action is being taken on the inactive stretch of CPR line. The statement goes on to say:
“The County has not been made aware at this time of what is planned for the line, but we are happy that some progress is being made to look after these lands.”
The statement goes on to say that Forty Mile Rail has taken over another stretch of these lands and have been working to improve rail crossings and control weeds along the corridor.
“We can only hope that if the land is not turned over to land owners that Forty Mile Rail will clean up this section of track and provide a value added benefit to the local agricultural community.”
40 Mile Rail Inc. is under a non-disclosure agreement with CP Rail. A spokesperson for the group said there was not much information 40 Mile Rail Inc. can provide at this time, adding the sale must still go through CP Rail’s extensive approval process.
The spokesperson indicated there was no firm timeline on when the deal would be completed.
CP Rail provided the following statement:
“The Canada Transportation Act prescribes the process that a railway company must follow to discontinue operation on a railway line. In compliance with that process, CP had listed the 7.7 miles of CP’s Cardston subdivision on its Three-Year Plan and will continue to take the appropriate statutory steps as required. CP must respect this statutory process before discontinuing operations or selling the line to a party that intends to use the land for a purpose other than continued railway operations.”
CPR line concerns near RaymondZobell said the Raymond Irrigation District is urging concerned area residents to write their Member of Parliament and provincial MLA.