Highway 95 Safety Petition and Demonstration


Winter Highway 95 2

PRDC Safety Petition

To enhance safety on a dangerous stretch of U.S. Highway 95 south of Moscow, Idaho, Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition (PRDC) has initiated a petition that urges the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) to immediately implement site-specific measures to mitigate unsafe highway conditions.  The scene of numerous traffic accidents and fatalities, the Reisenauer Hill area of Highway 95 poses serious threats to travelers during inclement and winter weather.  For a third time in a dozen years, American taxpayers are requesting that ITD lower and seek enforcement of the speed limit around Reisenauer Hill, erect reduced speed limit warning signs with weather-activated, flashing lights at both approaches to the hill, and install rumble strips in the center and fog lines, and in the traffic lanes before the warning signs, on this section of Highway 95.  Establishing these interim safety measures until and during construction of the new highway could help save lives and property.  PRDC encourages all citizens to read the full text of the petition on the PRDC and MoveOn websites, and sign it soon.  Please also circulate the petition to your colleagues and group members for signatures by 11 pm on Wednesday, December 17.

Petition to the Idaho Transportation Department Requesting Immediate, Site-Specific Actions to Mitigate Dangerous Conditions on Reisenauer Hill (November 28, 2014 Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition)

Highway Safety Demonstration

On Thursday, December 18, PRDC will deliver this petition to the Idaho Transportation Department in Lewiston, and send it via overnight mail to ITD Director Brian Ness and the Federal Highway Administration, both in Boise.  Between 1:30 and 4:00 pm on December 19, regional residents and PRDC members will conduct a Highway 95 roadside demonstration south of Palouse River Drive in Moscow.  Participants will highlight Highway 95 safety: citizen and PRDC concerns about it, appropriate interim measures to improve it, and recommended re-routing options that could restore it.  While ITD proclaims “safety” as its highway realignment project objective, its decades-long neglect of public well-being on current U.S. Highway 95 indicates otherwise. Continue reading

Group Demonstrates along Highway 95

Moscow-based coalition against current plan for highway realignment highlights safety in roadside display and petition

Drivers rolling in either direction along U.S. Highway 95 on the south end of Moscow on Friday afternoon could see more than a dozen demonstrators on each side of the road near its intersection with Palouse River Drive.

Most of the demonstrators were members of the Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition (PRDC), a group that has been fighting for years against the Idaho Transportation Department’s (ITD) preferred realignment route for the first phase of the highway project – a 6 1/2-mile span from Moscow to Thorncreek Road titled “E-2.”  It would cross Paradise Ridge and [not] use a significant amount of the existing route.

Hand-printed messages across brightly colored signs were aimed at students and staff leaving the University of Idaho campus for the winter break.

Some of the signs were meant to be read by order of appearance, in the style of old-time, roadside advertisements.  On display for drivers traveling south were three signs reading “Go Slow,” “Next 5 Miles,” and “Curves & Hills.”

All of the messages highlighted the need for cautious driving through the section of the two-lane highway, which eventually widens farther south to four lanes.  Some passersby responded by honking their horns or waving at the demonstrators. Continue reading

Protesters Call for More Safety along U.S. 95

Same group had sued ITD in 2003 over planned re-routing of vital north-south artery.

A group of more than a dozen members and supporters of the Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition waved picket signs Friday along U.S. Highway 95 in southern Moscow, demanding safety improvements on a seven-mile stretch of the roadway that has yet to be improved.

The bright red signs carried messages like “Danger Ahead,” “Go Slow,” “Live for Holidays,” and “U.S. 95 Unsafe.”  A news release from the coalition stated that the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) has shirked its duty by not taking safety measures on the highway over the decade it has taken to complete an environmental impact statement.

“While ITD proclaims ‘safety’ as its highway realignment project objective, its decades-long neglect of public well-being on current U.S. Highway 95 indicates otherwise,” according to the news release.

The same group sued the transportation department in 2003, citing environmental and safety concerns over the preferred route of the highway along the western flank of Paradise Ridge.  A federal judge granted an injunction and ordered the department to complete a full environmental impact statement, while design and construction on the rest of the highway continued from Thorn Creek Road to the top of the Lewiston Hill.  That work finished in 2007.

Demonstration organizer Mary Ullrich, a resident of Paradise Ridge, said the coalition is working to encourage the transportation department to immediately make one of the most dangerous stretches of Idaho highway safer.  She took exception to those who have villainized the group for blocking a new, four-lane, divided highway in the first place.” Continue reading

Letter: Sign the Petition

Tim Hatten, Moscow

The Moscow-Pullman Daily News 12/16/14

There’s been a lot of controversy over efforts to widen and improve the safety of U.S. Highway 95 from Thorn Creek Road to Moscow.  Everybody wants to see this stretch of road improved, but the best means for doing so are contentious and under much debate.  Lost in this debate, and in the lengthy process to reach a decision on the re-routing of the highway, is the resounding fact that there still remain safety concerns for the current route.  Specifically, the Reisenauer Hill area, scene of numerous traffic accidents and fatalities, is as dangerous as ever, and poses a threat to the unwary winter traveler.

To help rectify this situation, a petition has been drafted asking the Idaho Transportation Department to implement the following tasks:

1. Immediately lower and seek enforcement of the posted speed limit on Reisenauer Hill.

2. Erect warning signs with the reduced speed limit and weather-activated, flashing, yellow lights on both approaches to this hill.

3. Install rumble strips both in the center line and in the fog lines of this section of road.

4. Place rumble strips in the pavement lane of travel immediately prior to the reduced speed limit signs.

I believe that addressing these tasks could help save lives, and I urge all to sign the petition.  The last day to sign is December 17, so act now.  It can be found at the following link: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/petition-to-the-idaho-1.

WIRT Comments on Alta Mesa Revised Smoke Ranch 1-20 Drilling Permit

Smoke Ranch 1-20 Well Map 2

WIRT Comments on Alta Mesa Revised Smoke Ranch 1-20 Drilling Permit 12-7-14

The Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) again dismissed Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) comments on a pending Alta Mesa drilling permit and once more did not post these WIRT comments to the IDL website. Despite the apparent hopelessness of the situation, we worked as diligently as possible to comment and further delay construction of the Smoke Ranch 1-20 oil and gas well a few hundred feet from the Payette River. According to the IDL website, Alta Mesa is currently DRILLING this 4000-foot-deep floodplain intrusion, imposing grave risks on Idahoans and their potentially polluted drinking water supplies, nearby wildlife refuges, agricultural production and reliant economies, and recreational uses of the Payette River and downstream Snake River and Hells Canyon. THANKS to Joe Morton, the Idaho Conservation League, and everyone who commented before both deadlines. As one of only a few participants in the extended comment period, we can attest that this well will offer few benefits to Idahoans, especially when the power of heavy, frequent floods scour the well pad and tree, located closer to the Payette River and wildlife refuge islands to the southeast than marked in this map. See our linked comments and the December 7 WIRT Newsletter.

WIRT Newsletter: Stalled Payette Riverside Well Needs Comments Today, Appeal Hearing Hinders Gas Processing/Train Loading Facility

Stalled Payette Riverside Well Needs Comments Today

As Alta Mesa continues to pursue a permit to drill an oil and gas well a few hundred feet from the Payette River, recent comments from a handful of citizens and two organizations have delayed the permit and postponed drilling of the proposed Smoke Ranch 1-20 well, as described in the following chronology shared on facebook and with Idaho gasland area activists.  Since drilling began again in June 2013, the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) has dismissed Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) comments about six incomplete or insufficient Alta Mesa applications for well drilling permits.  (We missed only one comment period of eight and did not previously send our comments to other agencies.)  Like the WIRT comments that influenced the Federal Highway Administration to deny the Idaho Transportation Department/Mammoet proposal to build a “temporary” Interstate 90 megaload on-ramp east of Coeur d’Alene in February 2014, WIRT copied our comments on Alta Mesa’s Smoke Ranch 1-20 well drilling application to pertinent federal, state, and local agencies [1].  For the first time in the history of 19 oil and gas wells drilled or planned in southwest Idaho since 2009, the big state green group so fond of negotiated compromise, the Idaho Conservation League, also commented on this well permit application, but Alta Mesa still dismissed collective floodplain concerns [2].  In response to all of this resistance, IDL atypically forced well drilling application revision and comment period extension to December 7 [3, 4].

November 19: WIRT offers our gratitude for feedback, encouragement, and donations provided by members, who have called these comments “excellent,” “tremendous,” and “thorough, comprehensive, and expert work,” the result of several quiet, fresh, peaceful (but exhausting) all-nighters that re-wrote every possible desperate argument to every perceived authority, drawing again on most of the intellectual capacity and knowledge we could muster.  While this loving piece of resistance may represent “intense advocacy for our planet” and the best, last-minute shot that Mama Earth has to stop the industrial madness of a proposed oil and gas well next to the Payette River, we always hope for better possibilities for WIRT and associates.  We would greatly appreciate your suggestions of southern Idaho and allied support, pro-bono legal assistance, and Payette County WIRT members with resident status standing to effectively stop this well.  Who is up for this effort or referrals of lawyers and citizens who can engage and together move forward with legal and on the-ground opposition to oil and gas companies with much larger capacities?

November 20: Hmmm, yesterday, WIRT sent this note to the IDL: “When can we anticipate your response to the enclosed and attached comments and their posting on the Idaho Department of Lands website?”  Today, IDL replied with “Your comments and documents have been received and have been forwarded to the appropriate staff members.”  The Smoke Ranch 1-20 well drilling permit application and several other citizen/organization comments have disappeared from the IDL website.  Permit?  No permit?

November 21: TEMPORARY VICTORY!  Today, the Idaho Department of Lands posted “a revised [Alta Mesa] drill permit application for the Smoke Ranch 1-20 well.  Comments on the application are due December 7, 2014.  Send comments to comments@idl.idaho.gov or through the IDL website” [3].  A thousand thanks to everyone who forced revision of the original application with their comments and thus postponed drilling.  Despite similar WIRT comments (not sent to other agencies) on six of the seven Alta Mesa well drilling permit applications since development restarted in June 2013, its current application marks the first time that IDL has required application revision and a re-opened comment period.  WIRT doubts that the new application, proposing a 4000-foot-deep oil and gas well in a floodplain island near a wildlife refuge and upstream of the Fruitland drinking water intake, has comprehensively satisfied legal requirements.  So we will attempt earlier research and comments this time, to assist and integrate with yours.  We appreciate your ongoing assistance with these shared efforts to halt further fossil fuel infrastructure in Idaho, as we extend our invitation for integrated, co-signed comments with legal teeth to stop this floodplain development.

Please write to oppose this second Smoke Ranch gas well drilling misadventure!  As WIRT continues to closely watch and refute this proposed development, we are formulating and working on a second set of comments, posted soon, to meet the comment period deadline at midnight on Sunday/Monday, December 7-8.  We are also researching legal grounds for possibly revoking prior permits with similar flaws that we noted in previous comments, and wondering if Payette County ever granted a floodplain variance on the other, nearby Smoke Ranch well drilled during summer 2013, as required by county and federal laws.  Meanwhile, searching for all the legal ammunition that we can find to stop this development, WIRT asked a Colorado comrade – and a core WIRT member volunteered – to refer us to collected information about the impacts and damages caused by and to oil and gas wells and facilities during the September 2013 eastern Colorado floods.  They have provided articles depicting examples of spills associated with oil and gas development near rivers [5-7]. Continue reading

Third Annual Stand Up! Fight Back! Against Fossil Fuels in the Northwest!

Stand Up Fight Back 2014 Flyer

Moscow, Sandpoint, and Spokane activists of Spokane Rising Tide and Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) enthusiastically invite regional community members eager to design and stage public education events and protests to the third annual Stand Up! Fight Back! Against Fossil Fuels in the Northwest! information sharing, brainstorming, and strategizing sessions [1, 2].  Opponents of coal, fracked natural gas and oil, and tar sands extraction and transportation projects are converging from northern Idaho and eastern Washington for these urgent planning gatherings.  Like Missoula comrades of Indian Peoples Action, Blues Skies Campaign, and several other groups, who have been meeting since November 19, participants could talk about campaign strategies, creative tactics, and practical arrangements for upcoming training workshops, panel discussions, and direct actions [3].  The Missoula potluck convergence shared “thoughtful dialogue about stopping TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline and all other forms of extraction,…forming an allegiance among local eco-warriors.”

As we continue to formulate similar ideas, we would appreciate your input at these early December discussions in Sandpoint, Spokane, and Moscow.  Besides together thinking and talking about oil and coal train resistance methods and overdue protests, suggestions for two other possible events have arisen among associates and allies.  Communications have begun about one-day Keystone XL Pledge of Resistance non-violent, direct action trainings in Boise, Spokane, and Missoula, likely on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, January 17 to 19.  Area climate activists would like to contact, invite, and prepare the hundreds of regional folks who signed this pledge, and an indigenous anti-Keystone XL activist and an attorney well-versed in “know your rights” training may share their relevant knowledge at these workshops.  Teaching the first steps of the safe, staged kinds of demonstrations that an otherwise reticent public idolizes could lead to later, greater leaps of faith on tracks, roads, and pipelines and ultimately to stronger, regional, anti-fossil fuels activism.  We also anticipate engaging in frontline, on-the-ground resistance along the Montana path of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, if (when!) the U.S. Congress escalates this onslaught in January 2015.

Another possibility entails a public education event like a panel discussion in the Sandpoint/Spokane area, to inform, recruit, and activate local rail line residents for further issue and action involvement.  Because Rising Tide and allied direct action groups practice methods that make the mainstream organizations and topic experts of a potential panel squirm just contemplating and typically, endlessly rejecting them, hosting such a proposed event could prove logistically complex and difficult [4].  For instance, government officials may decline to participate, averting public perceptions of association with radicals, and we will never invite industry to such conversations.  But our regional groups must expand the interest, imagination, and passion of the fossil fuels opposition, with hopes that  bringing more people together to consider train accidents and responses will eventually lead to more numerous and widespread actions spurred by a greater sense of personal knowledge, responsibility, and empowerment.

Gathering Dates & Locations

* Monday, December 8, 7 to 9:15 pm at Second Avenue Pizza, 215 South Second Avenue in Sandpoint, Idaho

* Tuesday, December 9, 6 to 7:45 pm at the Downtown Spokane Public Library, 906 West Main Avenue (corner of Lincoln Street and Main Avenue) in Spokane, Washington

* Wednesday, December 10, 7 to 9 pm at The Attic, up the back stairs of 314 East Second Street in Moscow, Idaho Continue reading

WIRT Newsletter: Giving Events, Idaho Gas Plant/Bomb Train Hearing, & Highway 95 Safety Petition

Giving Tuesday

On this worldwide day dedicated to giving back to various causes, December 2, we received news that a generous contributor will match year-end donations to Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) in your honor before December 31, 2014.  By helping to meet this challenge, your gift to WIRT doubles, for instance, from $25 to $50, or $50 to $100, etc.  Please consider donating so our grassroots collective can continue to confront the root causes of climate change through direct actions and locally organized solutions that protect Idaho’s world-renowned clean water, fresh air, and rural and remote environments from dirty energy schemes like coal, oil, gas, and tar sands extraction and transportation.  Your contributions and participation support WIRT’s climate activism and outreach and legal expenses for fossil fuel opposition with frontline resistance communities and an international activist network.  WIRT appreciates, celebrates, and honors such generosity and solidarity in joining protests and/or supporting our work through the electronic, website “Donate to WIRT” button, or by check to the group mailbox at P.O. Box 9817, Moscow, Idaho 83843, or by calling us at 208-301-8039 [1].  Thanks for your gracious assistance!  We could not do this work without you!

Four December Giving Events

WIRT is seeking volunteers and donors for four public events over the next few weeks.  From 4 to 8 pm on Wednesday, December 3, meet us outside the 2014 Alternative Giving Market of the Palouse at the 1912 Center, 412 East Third Street in Moscow, Idaho [2].  We will distribute donation envelopes and accept contributions for holiday card index-card-sized inserts that sustain WIRT activism and outreach.  WIRT will also offer these cards in any number and dollar amount outside the Buy Local Moscow Seventh Annual Winter Fest at the 1912 Center from 5 to 8 pm on Thursday, December 4 [3].  Please additionally find the WIRT information table among other community groups in the 1912 Center Fiske Room, during the 10 am to 2 pm Winter Markets on December 6 and 13, February 7, and March 7 [4].  Visit WIRT at these appreciated opportunities to enhance winter holidays with climate activism and provisions.  THANKS!

Gas Processing & Train Loading Facility Appeal Hearing

Please attend a public hearing of three appeals of Alta Mesa’s industrial hydrocarbon processing and rail transfer facility at 7 pm on Thursday, December 4, at the Payette County Courthouse [5].  The Payette County Planning and Zoning Commissioners, who have mostly leased their mineral rights to Alta Mesa, rubber-stamped a conditional use permit for this project, located less than one mile from New Plymouth High School, in early September.  Nearby landowners Joli and Pete Eromenok, Joe Morton of Gem County Concerned Citizens, and Alma Hasse of Idaho Concerned Area Residents for the Environment have filed initial and amended appeals and supporting documents disputing this fossil fuel infrastructure that would degrade public health and safety, private property rights, uses, and values, and the local economy of the area.  We all greatly appreciate their work on this opposition, as we wish that we could participate in this distant Payette County meeting more than any other (except a few public, pre-permitting, private property site visits), but WIRT travel funds are depleted and two fundraising event times conflict.  At the hearing, please tell Payette County officials that their unacceptable approval decision on this gas plant does not benefit southwest Idaho citizens and sets an adverse precedent for other Idaho gas processing facilities. Continue reading

Climate Justice Forum 11-24-14

The Monday, November 24, Climate Justice Forum radio program hosted by Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) will discuss recent resistance to oil and gas development in southwest Idaho, the Trans Mountain pipeline in Burnaby, British Columbia, natural gas storage by Seneca Lake, New York, and other industrial invasions and grassroots opposition.  Broadcast on progressive, volunteer, community station KRFP Radio Free Moscow every Monday between 7:30 and 9:30 pm PST, live at 90.3 FM and online, the show covers continent-wide climate activism news and dirty energy developments, thanks to the generous, anonymous listener who adopted program host Helen Yost as her KRFP DJ.