Friday, December 27, 2013

Megaloads take a Christmas break

Protests delayed but still planned in Idaho


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer


A megaload of oil production equipment, bound for Alberta, Canada, is expected to start moving again tonight through southern Idaho. Now at Marsing in western Idaho, it is not known when the shipment will pass through southern Blaine County on U.S. Highway 20. The megaload is shown here in Oregon.
Courtesy photo by E.J. Harris of the East Oregonian

Wild Idaho Rising Tide, a Moscow-based environmental activist group, was planning a protest for Monday night in Marsing against a megaload of oil production equipment but called it off when the organization learned earlier that day that the shipment wasn’t going to move for a few days.
    But the protest, one of four planned in Idaho, including one at Timmerman Junction south of Bellevue, was only postponed and is now tentatively scheduled for tonight, Dec. 27, when the Idaho Transportation Department said the load will likely start its journey again for the Athabasca tar sands oil-production fields in Alberta, Canada.
    A second megaload, destined to take the same route through southern Idaho as the first one, also took a four-day break, but according to the Oregon Department of Transportation it too is expected to resume its journey tonight.
    The shipments, the first of three planned to move through Oregon, southern Idaho and Montana, are comprised of large tanks with intricate internal systems that are described as evaporators, heat exchangers and water purification units. The units will be used in the process of extracting crude oil from bitumen, a tar-like substance that is blasted in situ with steam to melt out the oil.
    Assembled in Portland, Ore., for Resources Conservation Company International, a General Electric Co. subsidiary, the units were then shipped by barge up the Columbia River to the Port of Umatilla.
    Megaload 1 left Umatilla on Dec. 2 but, delayed by wintry weather and protesters, took almost three weeks to traverse Oregon before arriving in Idaho Monday morning. The load, including trucks and trailers used for transport, weighs more than 450 tons, is 382 feet long, 18 feet 11 inches high and almost 23 feet wide. It is now parked at the junction of U.S. Highway 95 and state Highway 55 near Marsing.


We’ll be down for Friday night and as long as it takes after that.”
Helen Yost
Wild Idaho Rising Tide




    Megaload 2 left Umatilla on Sunday and is now parked near Pendleton. That load, because of a different truck-trailer arrangement, is 350 feet long and weighs 804,000 pounds.
    Megaload 3 remains at Umatilla, but Omega Morgan, the Oregon-based company handling the shipments, reported earlier that it would likely depart in January. The size of that shipment hasn’t been reported but it will be similar to the other two.
    The loads are destined to pass through southern Blaine County on U.S. Highway 20, going through Timmerman Junction and the city of Carey.
    Helen Yost, community organizer for Wild Idaho Rising Tide, said Thursday that she’s concerned that the loads “might get bunched up in Idaho.” She noted that Omega Morgan only averaged about 15 miles per night through Oregon. At that rate, it could take more than a month for a load to traverse the almost 500 miles of the route through Idaho.
    ITD spokesman Adam Rush said each load needs its own permit to travel through Idaho but that there’s nothing that would not allow two loads to be in the state at the same time.
    “If that happens, we’d like there to be a considerable distance between them,” Rush said.
    He confirmed that Omega Morgan intends to put Megaload 1 back on the road tonight.
    “It will resume travel tomorrow night, weather permitting, after 10 p.m.,” Rush said Thursday. The Idaho permit for Megaload 1 allows it to only travel from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
    Yost said that protests have been delayed but not canceled.
    “We’ll be down for Friday night and as long as it takes after that,” she said.
    In addition to Marsing, protests are planned at Mountain Home, Timmerman Junction and Salmon.
    Yost said her group includes regional environmental activists, some of them from Boise, but that the Timmerman Junction protest is “garnering local support.”
    Her organization and other environmental groups claim that they oppose megaload shipments because of the potential for road and bridge damage and because the tar sands operation causes irreversible environmental damage, leads to large emissions of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases, pollutes both ground water 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.
    In a news release about the protests, Yost said she is hoping more people commit to her cause.
    “Please bring your family, friends and neighbors and come prepared with protest signs, banners, and equipment, musical instruments, voices, and chants, audio and video recorders, cameras, notepads, and your spirit of solidarity, regional resistance and freedom of expression.”
Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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