Omega No More Again

Omega Morgan Megaloads FOC 5 7-22-13

Over the July 20-21 weekend, while climate activists from around the continent concluded the Rising Tide Continental Gathering at a remote Utah desert encampment, regional allies observed gigantic, spaceship-like megaloads traveling by barge up the Columbia and Snake rivers [1].  Manufactured for destructive Alberta tar sands extraction, weighing more than 600,000 pounds and measuring up to 255 feet long, 23 feet tall, and 21 feet wide on specialized trailers, two of at least ten large, cylindrical, pressure vessels arrived and offloaded at the Port of Wilma, Washington, near Lewiston, Idaho, late on Monday afternoon, July 22.  Heavy-haul company Omega Morgan has submitted a revised transportation plan seeking Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) permits for moving these wastewater evaporators across Idaho to Montana on U.S. Highway 12 [2].

But in an early February ruling in response to an Idaho Rivers United lawsuit argued by Advocates for the West, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill of Boise upheld Forest Service (USFS) authority to review state approval of megaload shipments that would traverse the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest and the Lochsa/Middle Fork of the Clearwater Wild and Scenic River corridors [3].  In his June 17, 2013, letter to ITD, Forest Supervisor Rick Brazell suggested interim megaload definitions and USFS approval criteria: Oversized loads should not require traffic to be fully stopped, the roadway or adjacent vegetation to be physically modified, or take longer than 12 hours to cross forest/river lands [4].

ITD asserted that brief, routine traffic stops should not prevent megaload passage, that it has no discretion to deny megaload permits, and that it would note the necessity of USFS authorization within issued permits.  Nonetheless, Brazell plans to establish a comprehensive corridor study, formal megaload definitions, and lengthy review processes to consider shipments through public lands, and to consult the Nez Perce Tribe sovereign nation about any megaload transit proposal through its reservation [5].  Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) and our allies have urged citizens to write – and Supervisor Brazell has received – numerous messages of support and encouragement, thanking his agency for its megaload stance and requesting steadfast resistance to mounting political pressure to allow future transports [6].

The full and rolling road blocks imposed by the gargantuan size of these Omega Morgan shipments, escorted by an extensive convoy of flaggers, pilot vehicles, and Idaho State Police, could trigger Forest Service review [7].  Supervisor Brazell has reiterated that his agency would not approve megaloads that do not meet all three criteria without Nez Perce Tribe consultation.  Like the ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil modules that appeared at regional ports without highway travel permits, these fourth and fifth Omega Morgan megaloads bully and target the Forest Service, the Nez Perce Tribe, and vigilant Idaho citizens, conservationists, and activists, who love the Big Wild and oppose tar sands mining, for yet another showdown with the anti-federal government state of Idaho and its transportation department colluded by a secret Big Oil multinational corporation [8].

With such phallic equipment poised to test and defy the Forest Service’s newly confirmed authority to stop tar sands shipments, ramming industrialization through wild and scenic river corridors, roadless areas, scenic byways, and other federally designated jurisdictions, WIRT activists hold little faith that interim USFS criteria and tribal input will stand as law that prohibits this blatant attempt to traverse Highway 12 and Montana back roads with impunity.  Our relatively wild region is so vulnerable to corporate abuse that these megaloads barged from British Columbia to travel to Alberta [9]!  Considering that such disreputable connivers as Mark Rey, the former Bush Jr. Department of Agriculture undersecretary, now work for Omega Morgan, Idahoans should immediately mount our strongest, sustained resistance to this second, ongoing tar sands invasion of northern Idaho.  This winter, from among the hundreds of Idahoans who initially affirmed that they would blockade such megaloads on Highway 12, only a handful of stalwart activists stood with us against the first three Omega Morgan megaloads [10].  When numerous court cases, letter writing campaigns, and general public unresponsiveness to activists’ pleas predictably fail to deter industry incursions into public resources, opportunities to personally confront expanding Alberta tar sands operations in our region remain our last and best recourse for resolution.

Please join WIRT activists and our allies on the next few Saturdays starting on July 27, to demonstrate public outrage against Omega Morgan’s scheme to continue penetrating and polluting the wilds of Idaho and Alberta with evaporators that exacerbate climate change with further tar sands extraction.  This and upcoming, proactive protests, organized with Friends of the Clearwater, Nez Perce community members, and other groups, focus beyond protecting area wildlands and rivers, beyond insisting on Forest Service responsibility, and beyond relying on the regulatory system and courts to assert our concerns.  During three-plus years of purported regional resistance to megaloads, none of these mechanisms have stopped – only slowed at great corporate expense – a single megaload from passing through Northwest rivers and roads.  On Saturday, July 27, carpools will depart the WIRT Activists House in Moscow at 2 pm and return at 5 pm, and meet at Locomotive Park in Lewiston at 3 pm, to converge at an undisclosed location and reject this latest tar sands onslaught.  Bring your friends, family, anti-tar sands/megaloads signs and banners, and your willingness to learn the WIRT song, The Tide is Rising!, and strategize and plan escalating August direct actions [11].

[1] Omega Morgan Megaloads 7-20-?-13 (July 23 Wild Idaho Rising Tide photos)

[2] Another Megaload May Be Alberta-Bound (July 23 Lewiston Tribune)

[3] Idaho Rivers United Conservation Director Kevin Lewis Discusses Recent Victory in U.S. Highway 12 Megaload Lawsuit (February 12 KRFP Radio Free Moscow Evening Report)

[4] Forest Service Brakes on Megaload Request (June 22 Lewiston Tribune)

[5] Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest Supervisor Tells KRFP ITD and Omega Morgan are Writing Plan that May Allow Giant Tar Sands Megaloads on Highway 12 (July 17 KRFP Radio Free Moscow Evening Report)

[6] Send a Quick Note to the Forest Service (July 22 Friends of the Clearwater)

[7] Idaho Rivers United Conservation Director Kevin Lewis Reacts to Positioning of Tar Sands Megaloads at Port of Wilma (July 23 KRFP Radio Free Moscow Evening Report)

[8] Omega Morgan Megaloads Arrive at Port of Wilma, Prompting Talk of Showdown with Forest Service (July 22 KRFP Radio Free Moscow Evening Report)

[9] Controversial Megaloads Pay Dividends (July 24 Lewiston Tribune)

[10] Omega Morgan Megaloads (Wild Idaho Rising Tide website category)

[11] The Tide Is Rising! (June 7 Roy Zimmerman song for WIRT)

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