WIRT Newsletter: WIRT Song, Missing Megaload, In-Situ Oil Spill, & More


Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) offers our exuberant gratitude to benefactor Tom Hansen, composer/performer Roy Zimmerman, and musical guide Jeanne McHale, for the uplifting song created for WIRT in May-June 2013, The Tide Is Rising!  Please share freely and revise as your own anthem, Rising Tide activists and friends.


Missing Megaload! (July 29 Big Country News Connection)

As Portland Rising Tide and 350 posed and hung a bridge banner declaring “Coal, Oil, Gas: None Shall Pass,” WIRT activists arrived at the Port of Wilma to confront two tar sands megaloads that passed under the same bridge the week before the Summer Heat: Columbia River Climate Action.  Unlike in Portland, a few protesters and a Lewiston Tribune reporter showed up at 3:30 pm on Saturday, July 27.  Everyone else likely assumed that the Forest Service and conservationists would keep these evaporators out of the Highway 12 wild and scenic river corridor, although most of the region had failed to stop similar transports to Alberta tar sands operations.  But the three of hundreds of potential protest participants observed that one of the Omega Morgan shipments was missing!  Did it sneak up Highway 12 unannounced?  We questioned the on-site security guard who refused to answer our queries, searched both the Ports of Wilma and Lewiston, contacted our non-activist allies who rarely work during weekends, and alerted and asked multiple associates around the region.  No one in the Kamiah Nez Perce community had seen the missing megaload.  Like during the 2011-12 ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil invasion of Highway 95, we felt betrayed and abandoned by industry, government, and absent allies and protest participants.

We cringed at the same-day juxtaposition of people downriver giddily stating “None Shall Pass,” as they posed against, rather than directly confronted, fossil fuel perpetrators, perhaps assuaging guilt with ‘photo ops’, while a megaload disappeared before anyone but a few diehards bothered to face it on the frontlines.  As we have worked to instigate for years, we hope that Americans will wake up and fight back in time, meeting megaloads with resistance at the coast and all along the 465-mile trip up the Columbia/Snake rivers to Lewiston area ports.  Our activist allies are still wondering why we have not blockaded Highway 12 yet.  On Monday, July 29, Mia Carlson-Simpson of Big Country News solved the missing megaload mystery with a few phone calls.  The module was in a nearby shop at the Port of Wilma, where presumably a crew is installing its insulation (or reducing its height for interstate overpasses?).  This Thursday, an ally noted that “Omega Morgan may have gone down Highway 95.”  With plenty of unverified or unshared information emerging, we remain vigilant of any megaload movement up Highways 12 or 95, not entirely convinced that the Forest Service will hold the line, that conservationist allies would call for an injunction, or that the police will not continue to reinforce social and environmental injustice.

“An oversized load that was delivered to the Port of Wilma just west of Clarkston a week ago has not been transported out of the region, although some people have asked ‘Did it sneak up Highway 12 last week?’  Activists with Wild Idaho Rising Tide showed up on Saturday, to protest the two loads that were unloaded from their barges on July 22, and discovered that there was only one sitting there.  According to Olga Haley, a spokeswoman for transport company Omega Morgan, the load is being ‘stored inside a building at the Port of Wilma.’  Meanwhile, she adds that there is no other news since the company is working with the U.S. Forest Service and the Idaho Department of Transportation on the permit situation.

The water purification vessels were fabricated in British Columbia, weigh about 320 tons each, and could be the first of at least nine loads that the Oregon-based shipping company wants to move east on U.S. Highway 12 to Montana and then up to Alberta, Canada, to the tar sands.  But the loads can’t move until they meet three interim rules set by the Forest Service to protect the Wild and Scenic Middle Fork Clearwater and Lochsa rivers: no traffic can be fully stopped in the corridor, the loads must pass through the corridor in less than 12 hours, and no physical modification may occur of the highway or adjacent vegetation beyond normal highway maintenance.  Omega Morgan has submitted a revised plan that shows the loads meet two of the three rules, but they would still delay traffic.  (Photo courtesy of Wild Idaho Rising Tide)”

Controversial Megaloads Pay Dividends (July 24 Lewiston Tribune)

This article partially revealed industry’s game plan at the Port of Wilma and on Highway 12.  Ellett Industries of Port Coquitlam, near Vancouver, B.C., manufactured the evaporators stranded at the Port of Wilma.  Because the modules are too large to travel B.C. roads, they were moved in a wasteful, industrial, business-overkill-as-usual way: shipped down the Washington coast to Vancouver and barged up the Columbia and Snake rivers, for truck transport through Idaho and Montana to Alberta tar sands operations.  Ten people will install insulation in one of the evaporators for two to three weeks at the port.  The Athabasca Oil Company evaporators would recycle steam used to soften and extract underground Alberta tar sands deposits and reclaim water for other purposes.  The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) has not yet issued permits to hauler Omega Morgan, but sent the Forest Service a four-page letter explaining its permitting process and megaload movement logistics: “We believe these actions should address your concerns.”  Washington and Montana have approved applications and will issue permits if ten Omega Morgan megaloads traverse Highway 12 until January.

Shipper, Forest Service at Standoff Over ‘Megaloads’ (July 24 Northwest Public Radio)

More megaload news from NPR (National Propaganda Radio for liberals)…

Omega Morgan Requires Permit for Megaload Transport from Port of Wilma (July 25 KLEW TV)

Why did KLEW include Moscow and Port of Lewiston WIRT protest footage: is it anticipating similar megaload rerouting and resistance?  “[The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest] has the right to deny or allow the two 300,000-pound pieces of large equipment from passing through their land…The Idaho Transportation Department could move forward without their input.  ‘The Forest Service’s position is that we don’t support the state permitting those loads at this time,’ said [Wild and Scenic Rivers Administrator] Heather Berg.  ‘They may choose to permit those loads without our support.’”

Does Omega Morgan Know a Mega-Secret? (July 25 Lewiston Tribune)

Omega Morgan knows what any observer of predictably corrupt Idaho politics understands: that some high-ranking Idaho politicians could receive enough illicit compensation to motivate them to grease Big Oil’s wheels and ensure eventual megaload permits.  In such a situation, WIRT is grateful for the incisive investigative journalism of KRFP Radio Free Moscow, led by Leigh Robartes: “KRFP’s journalism was mentioned by Lewiston Tribune editorial writer Marty Trillhaase in this morning’s paper.  It’s nice to be recognized by the big media as having an important role in reporting a developing story.”

Forest Service Halts Highway 12 Megaloads (July 25 Missoulian)

“Traffic will still be delayed by rolling roadblocks.  Rick Brazell, supervisor of the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest, said the transportation department has told him such delays for short periods are routine and shouldn’t be a Forest Service condition…But his agency will stick by its guns, Brazell said, and there was no sign Tuesday that an end to the stalemate is imminent.”

New Oversize Load Waits for U.S. 12 Approval (July 28 Spokesman Review)

“Each load carrying a water purification unit would be 255 feet long and 21 feet wide, weighing about 644,000 pounds, according to the traffic plan submitted to the state.  The loads would take about four days to cross Idaho, traveling between 9 pm and 6 am.  An earlier proposal by an ExxonMobil subsidiary to ship oil sands equipment across Idaho on U.S. 12 also sparked controversy.  Only one of those shipments went through.  The company opted to transport the rest of the equipment on U.S. Highway 95 and Interstate 90.  That’s not an option for Omega Morgan, however, because the water purification units are too tall to fit under I-90 overpasses, said Adam Rush, an ITD spokesman.”

Two New, Disputed ‘Megaloads’ Arrive on Snake River (July 28 Idaho Statesman)

Moscow, steel yourself!  We have heard these words before; much turmoil ensued: “The ultimate route for the oil gear is unclear, since approval of the oversized ‘megaload’ shipments on U.S. Highway 12 hinges on agreement from the U.S. Forest Service…Previous tar sands-bound megaloads…were transported via Interstate 90, to the north, following opposition from environmentalists and residents along the highway including in the courts.  These latest shipments, however, are too tall for the I-90 route’s overpasses.”

Idaho Transportation Board Special Meeting

On Monday, July 29, the Idaho Transportation Board held a special meeting at ITD headquarters in Boise.  The executive session agenda included personnel and legal (megaload?) issues, along with old and new business.  Media allies have contacted ITD to learn the results of this meeting.

Idaho, Feds at Odds on Megaloads (July 30 Lewiston Tribune)

See the posted July 26 letter from Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest Supervisor Brazell to ITD.  “The U.S. Forest Service is revising one of its interim criteria designed to define and govern the transport of megaloads…greater than 16 feet wide or 150 feet long…along U.S. Highway 12 as it passes through the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest and its Wild and Scenic River corridors…[It] is also asking to review megaload applications before permits are awarded by the state and is taking issue with the state’s insistence that it lacks authority to deny the permits…Loads meeting any of the criteria wouldn’t be approved by the agency until it developed a formal megaload review process and consulted with the Nez Perce Tribe,…preceded by a study that outlines the cultural and recreational values of the area.”  Forest Service/Nez Perce Tribe consultations begin on August 20.


‘Nobody Understands’ Spills at Alberta Oil Sands Operation (July 19 Toronto Star)

Thanks to James Blakely and Jo Kirkpatrick, both of Boise, for tracking this issue and expanding WIRT knowledge and activism!  Here is how the evaporators at the Port of Wilma, which cannot fit through tunnels, snow sheds, and interstate overpasses in B.C., Washington, etc., will be used in Alberta, with likely disastrous results.  Would WIRT detractors be proud to tell their children that their evaporator transport jobs or support facilitated such catastrophes?  For at least six weeks at four separate sites in the Beaver Lake Cree First Nation traditional territory, “Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. has been unable to stop an underground oil blowout that has killed numerous animals and contaminated a lake, forest, and muskeg” at the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range in Alberta, off-limits to the media and public, due to active Canadian military testing.  Its in-situ extraction methods inject thousands of gallons of superhot, high-pressure steam underground to liquefy and crack hard bitumen deposits and pump them to the surface, using more carbon and water than open-pit tar sands mining.  Inadvertently creating fractures from the reservoir to the surface, spills from pressurized oil beds cannot be capped or turned off like customary wells or pipelines and could seep for months.  By 2020, in-situ extraction could comprise 40 percent of tar sands production.  The Cree are “pursuing a constitutional challenge that argues the cumulative impacts of oil sands industrial development are infringing their treaty rights to hunt, fish, and trap.”  Band members have been unable to access graves alongside the lake in the area affected by the spills.

Cold Lake Oil Spill Leaking for Months: Documents (July 25 Canada.com)

“New revelations that CNRL’s spills have been ongoing since the winter have emerged just a day after a report revealed that, between 1996 and 2013, only 0.9 percent of all environmental legislation violations in the oil sands were subject to any kind of enforcement.”

An Unstoppable Oil Leak is Flowing in Alberta (July 24 Treehugger)

“Eighty percent of the [Alberta] bitumen that can currently be extracted is only accessible through steam extraction.  (Cyclic Steam Stimulation is one of a few methods of steam extraction.)  Although steam extraction has been touted as more environmentally friendly, it has also been shown to release more CO2 than its savage-looking [surface-mining] cousin.”

Oh, Canada (by Andrew Nikiforuk, July/August 2013 Foreign Policy)

“Over the last decade, Canada has not so quietly become an international mining center and a rogue petrostate.  It’s no longer America’s better half, but a dystopian vision of the continent’s [dirty-]energy-soaked future.  That’s right: The good neighbor has banked its economy on the cursed elixir of political dysfunction – oil.  Flush with visions of becoming a global energy superpower, Canada’s government has taken up with pipeline evangelists, petroleum bullies, and climate change skeptics.”


Omega Morgan Sells Majority Stake to Riverlake Partners (December 1, 2011, Portland Business Journal)

Thanks to WIRT facebook friend Danny Showalter for this useful information: “That’s a Portland-area, Hillsboro-based trucking company that’s agreed to haul those megaloads,…Omega Morgan?  Here’s the Portland equity firm that owns them, the capital behind these policies, for info’s sake.

Company Overview of Omega Morgan, Inc. (July 31 Bloomberg Businessweek)

Riverlake Partners (Riverlake Partners website)

The Portland private equity firm that owns a majority of the shares of Omega Morgan

Wild Idaho Rising Tide

P.O. Box 9817, Moscow, Idaho 83843

WildIdahoRisingTide.org & on facebook & Twitter


1 thought on “WIRT Newsletter: WIRT Song, Missing Megaload, In-Situ Oil Spill, & More

  1. Pingback: WIRT Newsletter: Lapwai Meeting & Teach-In, Megaload Hearing & Injunction​, Protester Charges, SAGD Response, & Benefit Concerts | Wild Idaho Rising Tide

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