The first of three scheduled “megaloads” through eastern Oregon is back on the road, as daytime temperatures rose to near 40 degrees on Tuesday in Pendleton.
Omega Morgan, the Hillsboro-based trucking company hired to move the load, made the call after 9 pm to continue on its route south over Battle Mountain Pass toward Ukiah. The massive shipment of tar sands equipment bound for Canada had been stalled since December 3, due to snow and ice.
The 22-foot-wide, 380-foot-long load is only permitted to move at night, and only when driving conditions are clear, according to the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT). Regional spokesman Tom Strandberg said crews assessed the route to make sure it was safe to travel.
“We definitely won’t let (the megaload) go if we don’t think it’s safe,” Strandberg said.
From there, the convoy will make its way east into Idaho, before heading north through Montana to its final destination at the tar sands region of Alberta, Canada. Holly Zander, spokeswoman at Omega Morgan, said they figure to spend about five more days traveling through Oregon, before crossing state lines.
Climate activists and members of the local Umatilla tribes have protested the megaloads using Oregon highways as a corridor to tar sands operations, which they argue contribute significantly to global warming.
Three protesters were arrested in two nights, trying to block the load from departing the Port of Umatilla, and delayed the rig on December 1.
Though Omega Morgan has two more megaloads planned along the same route, it has no plans to use the area as a long-term industrial corridor, said project manager Erik Zander to the North East Area Commission on Transportation on December 5.
Approximately 20 people travel with the megaload, Erik Zander said, including utility, traffic control, emergency, and ODOT workers. The company pays for pretty much everything, including ODOT overtime, he said.
(By George Plaven, East Oregonian)