Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Third megaload moves toward valley

Shipment to pass through southern Blaine County


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

Shown here is the first of three megaloads of oil production equipment bound for the Athabasca tar sands oil fields in Alberta, Canada. This shipment passed through Timmerman Junction in southern Blaine County early Dec. 30, 2013. The third megaload, also destined to pass through Timmerman Junction, is expected to enter southern Idaho within the next few days. Photo by Willy Cook

    A third megaload of oil production equipment bound for the Athabasca tar sands oil production area of Alberta, Canada, and destined to pass through Timmerman Junction in southern Blaine County, is expected to pass into southern Idaho within the next few days.
    “We’re hoping to get it to Idaho by tonight or tomorrow,” Tom Strandberg, a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Transportation, said Tuesday. “They’re hoping to start moving at 8 o’clock tonight and they’re hoping to make it to the Idaho border, but weather conditions might slow it down.”
    The megaload is 23 feet wide, about 19 feet high and weighs more than 794,000 pounds. Strandberg said the load, being moved by Oregon-based shipper Omega Morgan, was parked Tuesday afternoon alongside U.S. Highway 26 about 23 miles southeast of Unity, Ore., and about 45 miles northwest of Vale, Ore.
    All three shipments have started their road journeys for Athabasca at Port of Umatilla in Oregon. The shipments enter Idaho near Homedale and Marsing in southeast Idaho, wind their way through the state mostly on secondary highways and pass through Timmerman Junction on U.S. Highway 20.
    The Idaho Transportation Department announced on Friday that it has issued a permit for the third megaload.


They’re hoping to start moving at 8 o’clock tonight and they’re hoping to make it to the Idaho border, but weather conditions might slow it down.”
Tom Strandberg
Oregon Department of Transportation




    The permit provides that the shipment only travel between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. and that the load not travel if visibility is less than 500 feet. Since the load will take up both lanes of a two-lane highway, normal traffic will be stopped while the shipment is moving. The permit provides that “as much as possible, delays to other vehicles be limited to 15 minutes.”
    Wild Idaho Rising Tide, an environmental activist organization based in Moscow, described issuance of the permit in a news release as a “valentine” sent to Omega Morgan by its “big oil sweetheart.”
    Wild Idaho Rising Tide and other environmental groups have staged numerous protests, including at Timmerman Junction, as the megaloads travel toward Athabasca. The organization announced in its news release that a protest is planned for Timmerman Junction when the third megaload passes through.
    The shipment left Port of Umatilla the evening of Tuesday, Feb. 11, even though a court action had been filed that day by the Walla Walla Indian Tribe and an organization called ActOnClimate.net.
    The action was a petition filed in Oregon Circuit Court in Marion County seeking a court order to require that the Oregon Department of Transportation allow for public input and consider the public benefit versus the consequences of allowing the megaloads to move through that state.
    Wild Idaho Rising Tide explained in its news release that the petitioners were not able to file for an injunction to prevent the third load from moving because the “associated bond would cost them millions of dollars if they lose their case.”
    The organization and other environmental groups claim 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 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.
Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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