Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Protesters delay megaload in Oregon

Environmental group organizing protest at Timmerman Junction


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

A megaload of oil refinery equipment, shown above in Oregon, continues its slow journey toward Idaho, where eventually it is destined to pass through southern Blaine County on U.S. Highway 20. Courtesy photo by E.J. Harris of the East Oregonian

For a second time, environmental activists in Oregon have delayed a behemoth load of oil refinery equipment destined to travel through southern Blaine County on its trip to the Athabasca tar sands oil fields in Alberta, Canada.
    In a news release, the environmental group Portland Rising Tide reported that 16 protesters were arrested late Monday night near John Day, Ore., after they locked themselves to two disabled vehicles that were placed in front of the 450-ton load. The Oregonian newspaper reported Tuesday that the protest delayed the shipment but that it proceeded after the protesters were removed. However the shipment was only able to travel 30 miles on Monday night.
    Protesters in Oregon also delayed the start of the shipment for a full day on Dec. 1, when two of them chained themselves to transport vehicles at Umatilla, the starting point for the megaload’s road trip.
    The shipment, which is only allowed to travel at night in Oregon, remained Tuesday morning about 95 miles west of Vale, near the Idaho border. Progress of the shipment has also been delayed by wintry weather.
    Meanwhile, Wild Idaho Rising Tide, a Moscow-based activist organization opposed to the shipments, announced on Friday that it is organizing four protests in Idaho, including one at Timmerman Junction south of Bellevue. The group has not made it clear whether or not attempts will be made in Idaho to block the shipment.
    The megaload—which weighs 901,000 pounds and is 376 feet long, including transport vehicles—is the first of three similar loads of heat exchanger/water purification units that transport company Omega Morgan plans to carry from Umatilla to a General Electric Co. subsidiary at the Athabasca oil fields within the next few months.
    The route the company intends to use through Idaho starts on U.S. Highway 19 near Homedale and then follows mainly secondary highways until it reaches Mountain Home, where the shipment moves onto U.S. Highway 20, traveling through Elmore, Camas, Blaine and Butte counties. The route turns north to the east of Arco and then proceeds north and exits the state into Montana on U.S. Highway 93 near Salmon.


People in northern Idaho are talking about it going through a Wild and Scenic River corridor, so what about a national monument?”
Helen Yost
Wild Idaho Rising Tide




    Similar, but smaller, megaload shipments have been moved to Athabasca on northern Idaho highways. However, in September a federal judge blocked shipments on U.S. Highway 12 because it is a federally designated Wild and Scenic River corridor.
    Helen Yost, community organizer for Wild Idaho Rising Tide, pointed out in an interview last week that the new route passes through the Craters of the Moon National Monument east of Carey.
    “People in northern Idaho are talking about it going through a Wild and Scenic River corridor, so what about a national monument?” Yost said.
    Wild Idaho Rising Tide and other environmental groups claim that they oppose the shipments because of the potential for road and bridge damage and because the Athabasca tar sands operation causes irreversible environmental damage, leads to large emissions of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases, pollutes both ground and surface water, ruins wetlands for numerous species of migrating waterfowl and violates treaty agreements with Indian tribes in both the U.S. and Canada.
    The organization announced in a news release Friday that it is organizing Idaho protests at Marsing, Mountain Home, Timmerman Junction and Salmon. The organization also plans protests in Montana.
    The Idaho Transportation Department, is expected to approve shipment of the megaloads through Idaho, but has not yet announced whether the shipments will be allowed to travel only in the daytime, only at night or a combination of both.
Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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