The first of three megaloads bound for Canada was delayed leaving the Port of Umatilla on Sunday night, as crews worked longer than expected to secure the enormous vessel onto trucks, according to industrial hauler Omega Morgan.
And while the shipment is now ready to move, spokeswoman Holly Zander said the decision was made on Monday to hold off again so workers could enjoy Thanksgiving weekend with their families. Omega Morgan was already required to pull over for the holiday as part of its permit with the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT).
Instead, the transport is now scheduled to depart on Sunday, December 1, from the port industrial park. It will begin traveling south on Highway 395 through Hermiston, before heading east on Interstate 84 into Pendleton.
From there, the megaload will continue south through the John Day Valley and east across state lines into southern Idaho. Its final destination is Alberta, Canada, delivering equipment for refineries in the tar sands project.
Climate activists oppose providing a route on Oregon’s highways for the megaloads. About 20 protesters arrived on Sunday and Monday nights, to rally against what they believe will only contribute to global warming.
Zander said the protests had nothing to do with delays, nor is Omega Morgan experiencing any other mechanical problems.
“Contrary to activist reports, neither their activity or proposed activity were driving factors behind our decision to hold off on travel,” Zander said in an email. “Absolutely everything with our trucks and trailer configuration are in working order, and we have not run into any issues other than the amount of time it took to properly secure the load.”
ODOT regional spokesman Tom Strandberg said Omega Morgan is working to renew or amend its permit, which is good for only ten days. He does not anticipate any problems moving forward.
The route across Eastern Oregon was chosen after previous shipments encountered stiff opposition on U.S. Highway 12 through the Nez Perce Reservation and a federally designated scenic river corridor.
Tribal police arrested 28 protesters attempting to block the road in August, and a month later, a federal judge ordered the megaloads to stop using the highway until a study on their effects is complete.
But protesters are speaking out against the new route, and said they planned to return to Umatilla on Sunday. Locals were joined by protestors from the Willamette Valley and others from Idaho and Washington state.
The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation also continue to work with the state about permitting concerns, said spokesman Chuck Sams.
(By George Plaven, East Oregonian)