No Tar Sands Megaloads in Oregon!

Oregon Omega Morgan Megaload Diagram High-Definition

[MONDAY UPDATE: The relentless warriors against tar sands megaloads NEED YOU on the frontlines with us TONIGHT, as the first, heaviest, and longest megaload of tar sands mining equipment ever to transgress Umatilla and Warm Springs aboriginal homelands in eastern Oregon launches on Monday night, November 25.  The 901,000-pound, 376-foot-long behemoth hauled by Omega Morgan never left the Port of Umatilla as scheduled on Sunday night, although 20 protesters from Idaho, Oregon, and Washington expressed their outrage with chants, musical instruments, banners, and signs, as documented with regional media articles and forthcoming photos and videos.  Please contact Wild Idaho Rising Tide and allies by phone or email and/or meet us at 6 pm in the Desert River Inn lobby at 705 Willamette Avenue in Umatilla, Oregon.  We will be gathering, strategizing, and preparing for historic protesting and monitoring activities starting at 7 pm at the Port of Umatilla.  Join this epic resistance to the first Alberta tar sands megaload in Oregon!  Besides protesters, we need monitors along every mile of Omega Morgan’s path, to gather evidence for lawsuits emerging soon.  Please bring (or borrow our) protest signs, banners, and equipment, musical instruments and voices, audio and video recorders, cameras, notepads, and your spirit of solidarity and freedom of expression.]

Late on Friday afternoon, November 22, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) issued a permit to Hillsboro, Oregon-based heavy-hauler Omega Morgan, who intends to begin moving the first, heaviest, and longest megaload of tar sands mining equipment ever to transgress Umatilla and Warm Springs aboriginal homelands in eastern Oregon on Sunday night, November 24 [1, 2, 3].  Embarking from the Port of Umatilla, the “water purification vessel and parts,” like the evaporator core that just traversed northern Idaho on November 10 to 13, will compromise traveling citizens’ safety and convenience and Americans’ shared highway and bridge infrastructure along segments of Interstate 84, U.S. Highways 20, 26, 395, and 730, and Oregon Highway 201 [4, 5, 6].  Although the module measures only 98 feet long and weighs 330,000 pounds, the total transport system of heavy-duty pull and push semi-trucks, specialized trailers, and their cargo stretch out 380 feet, weigh 901,000 pounds, crowd both 12-foot lanes of two-lane highways with their 23-foot width, and cannot clear 16-foot-tall overpasses with their 19-foot heights [7, 8].  Eight crew members and tillermen steering the equipment through sharp corners and several pilot and flagger vehicles guiding traffic in front and behind the convoy, as well as an ambulance and full-service repair truck, will accompany the oversized freight that contains no hazardous materials, fuels, or liquids [9].  Its dimensions rival the longest and heaviest megaloads ever encountered in northern Idaho and western Montana since the issue arose in spring 2010.

Restricted to overnight travel between 8 pm and 6 am, to purportedly reduce impacts on other travelers, this first of at least three giant evaporator parts cannot delay traffic for more than 20 minutes.  The other two megaloads also arrived at the Port of Umatilla on November 21 and could move on the same route in late November and December.  To allow oncoming and following motorists to pass, the dozen or more vehicles in the convoy will stop other traffic and/or pull over every five to seven miles, as they use on and off ramps to avoid Interstate 84 overpasses between Stanfield and Pendleton and head southeast through Umatilla, Grant, Baker, and Malheur counties, to the state border near Homedale, Idaho.  Due to numerous highway curves, climbs, and descents, especially in the slow sections of Highway 395, this inaugural megaload could require six days to cross Oregon in the best conditions or longer, when inadvertent weather, snow and ice on road surfaces, or holiday traffic impede its onslaught.  Omega Morgan and ODOT have not determined its exact schedule.

The company and state have either not or only nominally consulted the Umatilla and Warm Springs Tribes and Oregon citizens in rushed decisions about this colossal venture that could degrade public infrastructure and establish a “high and wide” corridor for industrial shipments to the most destructive and outmoded, fossil fuel extraction undertaking on Earth: Alberta tar sands mining.  Without public involvement, Omega Morgan and ODOT representatives have considered this use of remote roads since early October and met in Pendleton on October 21.  At token public presentations and discussions led by Omega Morgan project manager Erik Zander in John Day, Oregon, on November 18, and in Ontario, Oregon, on November 25, company and state and local agency officials could not confirm dates or details of the operation and are holding the latter meeting after megaload travel starts [10, 11].  They would not acknowledge the owner or destination of the loads, besides Alberta, Canada, or how many more similar invasions regional residents along the route could anticipate.  Along with growing eastern Oregon skepticism, Omega Morgan has consistently faced resistance from the Nez Perce Tribe and conservation and climate activists in Idaho and Montana, who have successfully protested oversized tar sands equipment on their indigenous and public lands surrounding U.S. Highways 12 and 95 and Interstate 90 [12, 13].  The controversy has resulted in 40 arrests and a preliminary injunction against large Omega Morgan loads on Highway 12, ordered by federal Judge B. Lynn Winmill [14].  Omega Morgan has hired former Bush administration agriculture undersecretary Mark Rey as a consultant on its megaload project [15].

On November 18 and 19, Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) attended and documented the John Day public meeting and scouted, photographed, and videotaped Highway 395, Interstate 84, and the Port of Umatilla [16].  Without Omega Morgan’s permit application and travel/transportation plan that it submitted to ODOT, but with some recent research and years of relevant experience, we observed that the Oregon megaload route passes through the Forrest Conservation Area for salmon restoration of the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation, McKay Creek National Wildlife Refuge, the Malheur and Umatilla National Forests, the Battle Mountain Forest and Ukiah-Dale Forest State Scenic Corridors managed as state parks, and along the North Fork John Day Wild and Scenic River corridor with critical habitat for federally listed, threatened aquatic species like bull trout and steelhead [17, 18, 19, 20].  Taxpayers subsidize Big Oil’s profits from Alberta tar sands exploitation, as the industry arrogantly abuses public roads, lands, waters, and associated indigenous and citizen rules, rights, and risks.  For instance, frequent tar sands module hauler Mullen Trucking collapsed the Interstate 5 bridge over the Skagit River in Washington before the Memorial Day weekend 2013, while carrying oversized housing for drilling equipment to a regional port [21, 22].  But the re-routed Omega Morgan megaloads must cover 315 miles in Oregon and 585 miles through Idaho to Missoula, via the most direct but yet unknown Montana course, significantly costing the company over four times the distance, time, fuel, and labor – not to mention route uncertainty – to move its payload 900 miles instead of the 220 miles between the Port of Wilma and Missoula along Highway 12, as tar sands mining becomes more expensive and less feasible every day.

While Montana transportation officials await a complete Omega Morgan application specifying a proposed route and Idaho Transportation Department engineers analyze potential megaload impacts to public infrastructure and safety, evaporator builder General Electric (GE) and shipper Omega Morgan hope to avert opposition in eastern Oregon and along Idaho Highways 19, 28, 33, and 78, U.S. Highways 20, 93, and 95, and Interstate 84 [23, 24, 25].  Their prolonged Idaho detour starting on December 5 or 6 from Homedale, through small southern Idaho desert towns, and up 7,014-foot Lost Trail Pass to southwestern Montana, also bypasses Highway 12 contentions and Interstate 90 bridges that cannot bear such dense weight [26].  But before the evaporator core questionably journeys through Craters of the Moon National Monument, it must sidetrack 140 miles to avoid precarious bridges and chance a span near Hammett across the Snake River, ironically the previous megaload conduit to Lewiston area ports [27, 28].  Apparently, Omega Morgan has a bigger problem with potentially wrecking bridges, rather than not fitting under them or temporarily raised power lines.

Observers suspect that the proposed eastern Oregon/southern Idaho megaloads are some of the ten evaporators that GE subsidiary Resources Conservation Company International of Bellevue, Washington, contracted Omega Morgan to deliver to Athabasca Oil Corporation’s Hangingstone tar sands mining facilities, under construction until late 2014 southwest of Fort McMurray, Alberta [29].  Manufactured in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, a whole evaporator and dismantled units of another slipped through northern Idaho protesters and monitors three times since early August, but eight similar loads mysteriously remain on the West Coast.  Dirty energy companies use these evaporators to recycle mining waste fluids into steam that they inject with toxic chemicals into the Earth, as in hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) processes.  Such steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD), in-situ extraction of bitumen (tar sands) can reach 80 percent of the Alberta deposits too deep and asphalt-hard to surface mine in open pits, and it often contaminates First Nations lands and waters with oil seeps.  These obviously unsustainable and filthy practices maintained by huge industries and myriad consumers, both defensively and deceptively protecting their illusion of control, need more resistance that exposes incongruences and devastation for people willing to listen and assert change.  Hundreds of hauls by multiple transport companies, changing the character of rural communities, loom on this emerging North American extreme energy infrastructure supply corridor to new mining and drilling sites in Alberta and North Dakota, Utah, and the West.

Only days after ODOT issued a traveler advisory about this superload, the Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative (OTEC) stated on Wednesday that the utility would not fast-track its raising of 34,500-volt transmission lines, moving of power poles, and other work requested by Omega Morgan [30].  It insisted that related safety concerns could possibly delay megaload launch at least two weeks.  But by Thursday, an Omega Morgan foreman determined that the advance work is unnecessary, and OTEC admitted some misunderstandings after contact from moving company officials to clarify goals [31, 32].  The hauler anticipates squeezing under electrical power lines as crew members push them up and out of the way.  The Oregon Department of Transportation stood poised to issue a megaload permit on Friday, but could not confirm its finalization for media sources at 4:50 pm [33].

During this last week, Wild Idaho Rising Tide and Oregon allies All Against the Haul, Corvallis, No Keystone XL of Albany, Portland Rising Tide, and Northwest activists of Deep Green Resistance, Earth First!, and Occupy have led plans and organization of weekend travel and on-the-ground resistance actions refuting Omega Morgan’s megaload transport on Sunday night, November 24 [34].  With its  travel plan and permit in hand, we are urgently calling on regional residents and indigenous, forest, and climate activists to “warrior up” and join us in front line megaload protesting and monitoring on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday nights, November 24 to 26, and beyond, as Omega Morgan ventures into beloved Oregon places.  All four Columbia River treaty tribes – the Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs, and Yakama – issued a resolution in August opposing Canadian tar sands megaloads and development, and we and all of the power of Nature intend to uphold it!  Has Omega Morgan forgotten the February 2008 avalanche that knocked a full logging truck into the Lochsa River, or the August 2013 Lolo Creek Complex fire around Highway 12 in Montana?  Loud drumming circles with plenty of prayers in appropriate roadside spaces could provoke similar warnings.

Along with partners strategizing legal avenues of recourse, we need you to demand that the Oregon Department of Transportation disclose all of its public records of Omega Morgan documents, travel plans, and interactions, analyze the ecological, safety, and infrastructure impacts of proposed tar sands shipments through Oregon, and conduct an immediate and transparent public process prior to permit issuance, so people can voice their concerns [35].  WIRT allies have submitted similar public records requests in Idaho, assuming various megaload routes.  We also ask that you contribute to the comments and conversions developing on the website and facebook pages of the weekly John Day community newspaper, the Blue Mountain Eagle, to provide insights and corrections to misinformation and to encourage local people to express their disapproval of the looming industrial corridor invading their area.  If you cannot physically attend events arising along the fossil fuel megaload path, please engage in these opportunities.

None of us can idly compromise while destructive industries overtake our homelands and region with megaloads, using our highways to destroy boreal forests and bogs and to poison land, water, air, and people with tar sands extraction processes at their destination.  Megaloads are the first stage in a progression that increases tar sands pipelines and oil-by-rail exports in the Northwest and that ultimately ends in climate change, as the growth imperative of industrial civilization, capitalism, and infrastructure forces the ever-expanding sacrifice zones of the Earth into subjugation.  Northwest citizens are facing a threat worse than dirty energy export proposals, as components of new bitumen mining complexes rumble down our highways and streets during endless nights, assuring that those proposals will be more rapidly and extensively implemented.

Your participation is infinitely welcome, as residents of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington form direct action teams converging in Umatilla, Oregon, between 2 and 6 pm on  Sunday, November 24.  Please contact WIRT by phone or email and/or meet us at the Desert River Inn/Village on the Green at 705 Willamette Avenue in Umatilla, Oregon [36].  We will be gathering, strategizing, scouting, and making protest signs throughout the evening, as we prepare for historic, epic resistance to the first Alberta tar sands megaload on Umatilla/Oregon lands.  Also consider referencing the evaporator route through Google Maps in advance, to discover locations of megaload intersections and pinch points and sites for demonstrations and illuminated message projections.  Besides protesters, we will need monitors along every mile of Omega Morgan’s path, to gather evidence for potential lawsuits.  Please come prepared with protest signs, banners, and equipment, musical instruments and voices, audio and video recorders, cameras, notepads, and your spirit of solidarity and freedom of expression.

[1] Oversized Load Traveling through Eastern Oregon November 24-25 (November 18 Oregon Department of Transportation)

[2] ODOT Region 5 (Oregon Department of Transportation)

[3] Omega Morgan Sets Sights on Oregon Route (November 18 All Against the Haul)

[4] Highway 95’s Largest OmegaLoad MoreAgain 11-10to13-13 (Wild Idaho Rising Tide photos & videos)

[5] Eastern Oregon Megaload Public Meetings (November 15 Wild Idaho Rising Tide)

[6] Oregon Large Load Map: Roxbury Road to Idaho Highway 19 East (Oregon Department of Transportation)

[7] First Superload Coming Sunday Night, November 24 (November 18 Blue Mountain Eagle)

[8] Update: Superload Could Take Six Days through State (November 18 Blue Mountain Eagle)

[9] First ‘Megaload’ Moves on Oregon Roads Sunday (November 20 Jefferson Public Radio)

[10] Megaload Headed through Eastern Oregon (November 19 Argus Observer) (Earth First! Newswire repost)

[11] Board Meeting Agenda (Southeast Area Commission on Transportation Regional Partnership)

[12] Letters to the Editor (November 21 Blue Mountain Eagle)

[13] Should Omega Morgan Move Megaloads on Highways 395 and 26 through Grant County? (Blue Mountain Eagle poll)

[14] Mega-Loads Now Heading South and East before Heading North (November 20 Boise Weekly)

[15] Nez Perce Seek Court-Ordered Roadblock with Second ‘Megaload’ On Horizon (August 12 Northwest News Network)

[16] Eastern Oregon Megaload Public Meetings & Scouting 11-18&19-13 (Wild Idaho Rising Tide photos & videos)

[17] Forrest and Oxbow Conservation Areas (Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon)

[18] Battle Mountain Forest State Scenic Corridor (Oregon State Parks)

[19] Ukiah-Dale Forest State Scenic Corridor (Oregon State Parks)

[20] John Day River (North Fork), Oregon (National Wild and Scenic Rivers System)

[21] The Skagit River Bridge is Megaloads’ Dog-on-Car-Roof (November 22 All Against the Haul)

[22] Megaloads Coming to Eastern Oregon Roads (November 21 Eugene Weekly)

[23] Megaload Hauler Proposes Route in Oregon, Idaho (November 21 Oregonian)

[24] Megaload of Oil Refinery Equipment to Bypass Magic Valley (November 22 Twin Falls Times-News)

[25] Megaload Could Be Coming through Southern Idaho Next Week (November 21 KTVB)

[26] Megaload May Take up to Two Weeks (November 20 Argus Observer)

[27] Possible Southern Idaho Megaload Route: Idaho Highway 19 East to Lost Trail Pass (Google Maps)

[28] Omega Morgan Avoids Snake River Bridges: Oregon Highway 201 to Hammett, Idaho (Google Maps)

[29] Hangingstone Asset (Athabasca Oil Corporation)

[30] Superload Schedule Hits a Speed Bump (November 20 Blue Mountain Eagle)

[31] Omega Morgan: On the Road Again (November 21 Blue Mountain Eagle)

[32] Shorter Omega Morgan: Power Lines, Schmower Lines, We’re GOING!!! (November 21 All Against the Haul)

[33] Hillsboro’s Omega Morgan Prepares to Haul Megaload from Umatilla Sunday, Bound for Tar Sands (November 22 Oregonian)

[34] The Megaload is Moving through Oregon on Sunday Night – Plan to Join Us (November 23 All Against the Haul)

[35] Call to Action: Be the First Line of Defense Against Megaloads in Oregon! (November 21 Earth First! Newswire)

[36] Desert River Inn (facebook)

2 thoughts on “No Tar Sands Megaloads in Oregon!

  1. Pingback: Stop the Tar Sands Megaloads in Oregon! | Wild Idaho Rising Tide

  2. Pingback: fback » now tarsands megaload heads to nez

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