WIRT Newsletter: Friday Southern Idaho Protest, First Oregon Megaload Travails

Idaho and Montana Tar Sands Megaload Protests!

Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) and allies have postponed Idaho megaload protesting and monitoring activities, centered on Boise carpools and a demonstration in Marsing, Idaho, until Friday evening, December 27.  On Friday, December 20, the Idaho Transportation Department issued a permit, without a bond, for Omega Morgan to abuse Idaho roads, bridges, and citizen rights and to degrade indigenous and public lands and people.  On the WIRT website and facebook pages, we will regularly update the tentative dates, times, places, and carpool arrangements of megaload resistance events in or near Marsing, Mountain Home, Bellevue, and Salmon, Idaho, and in Missoula and other Montana locations.  Please bring your family, friends, and neighbors, and come prepared with protest signs, banners, and equipment, musical instruments, voices, and chants, audio and video recorders, cameras, notepads, and your spirit of solidarity, regional resistance, and freedom of expression.

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The Winter Travails of the First Oregon Tar Sands Megaload

The inaugural Resources Conservation Company International/Omega Morgan-hauled heat exchanger core of a tar sands mining wastewater evaporator recently struggled against weather and road conditions on the final leg of its Oregon journey in Malheur County, after encountering four blockades, a week of Umatilla tribal vigilance and ceremonies, snow, ice, and frigid weather, and steep curving highways, since it departed the Port of Umatilla on Monday, December 2.  As illustrated in a constantly updated map of the approximate travel segments of the first of three similar megaloads, the transport launched after two blockades from A, the Port of Umatilla, moving 37 miles to Pendleton, where snowy, cold weather forced a week-long layover [1].  During its hiatus, Umatilla tribal members gathered each evening at about 7 pm, offering prayers, songs, and indigenous leadership in defense of the Earth against fossil fuels pillage [2].  With several Umatilla megaload monitors in hot pursuit of the convoy, it resumed travel on Tuesday, December 10, south on Highway 395 through the McKay Creek National Wildlife Refuge and Battle Mountain State Scenic Corridor and Forest, moving 47 miles to C, Ukiah [3].

Crawling through the most tortuous portions of its Oregon route, it ventured only 14 miles to D, Dale, on Wednesday, December 11, through the Ukiah-Dale State Scenic Corridor and Forest, within Cayuse Creek canyons, and along three miles of the federally designated wild and scenic North Fork of the John Day River and its critical habitat for nationally threatened and endangered aquatic species.  On Thursday night, December 12, Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) and Omega Morgan officials hoped that “the snowy weather would skirt that area.  Instead, the snow began to fall.  ‘It started snowing – a flake here and a flake there – while they were having their safety meeting’” [4].  Nonetheless, the transport struggled to travel five miles mostly uphill to E, south of Dale and below Meadowbrook Summit [5].  Stuck in continuing snow on a remote, steep, and winding highway, weather and road conditions again delayed the megaload on Friday, December 13.  During two nights of convoy passage through challenging public and indigenous lands, monitors were not present to document the many likely difficulties that the crew encountered.

But on Saturday, December 14, reinforcements arrived from the West Coast, and observed an Emmert trailer at the Port of Umatilla.  Emmert of Clackamas, Oregon, hauled four ConocoPhillips half coke drums to Billings, the first fossil fuel megaloads up Highway 12 in spring 2011.  Questions immediately arose about whether the Oregon megaload transportation contract had changed hands to Emmert.  Activists also wondered whether the other two Port of Umatilla modules would head on upriver barges to northern Idaho, for transport in pieces or their entirety, after obvious but unseen Oregon travails.  Judge Winmill’s preliminary injunction prohibits only Omega Morgan, not other hauling companies, from moving transports wider than 16 feet and longer than 150 feet on Highway 12, through Nez Perce homelands.  Grateful for their intricate, accurate coverage of recent megaload issue developments and protests, Wild Idaho Rising Tide contacted some eastern Oregon press associates, requesting possible expansion and exposure of this information.  A media conversation with Omega Morgan revealed no contract changes but hinted that the announced dates for the next two Umatilla megaload departures would depend on the timing of the first transport’s Idaho entry.

That night, December 14, the convoy traversed 39 miles to F, 10 miles north of Mount Vernon, presumably under the watchful eyes of recently present, allied monitors.  On December 15, before the transport re-emerged into more populated areas in the John Day river valley, “several carloads of protesters were at the megaload’s starting spot on Sunday night, but many dispersed into the woods, as deputies and police arrived on the scene…The protesters eventually rejoined their vehicles and followed the load into Mount Vernon, merging with a growing crowd of spectators.  There were no arrests or confrontations” [6].  The Omega Morgan megaload “negotiated a tight right turn at Mount Vernon, reversed course on nearby private land, and headed east on Highway 26.  The turn-about was scheduled after the hauler determined the load couldn’t negotiate a left turn onto the highway in Mount Vernon” [7].  Perhaps in an Omega Morgan effort to awe and buy off industry supporters, the transport only gained 18-plus miles to G, John Day, on Sunday night.

As discussed and cited in a previous WIRT newsletter, on Monday, December 16, the tar sands megaload encountered two lock-down blockades erected by activists from throughout the Northwest [8, 9].  Overly aggressive police in John Day wrongfully arrested innocent, non-local bystanders, seized still unreturned cameras and suppressed most of their photos and videos, held them for two harrowing nights in the Grant County jail, and charged them each with five misdemeanors and $1,000 bail.  Some of these brave, fellow activists followed police directions on the roadside, but were nonetheless arrested and shackled without orders to cease and desist or disperse, despite their cooperation.  After holding them in our thoughts for days, WIRT is relieved and grateful that our Rising Tide and allied friends are now safely back home after their release on Wednesday, December 18, although some of our comrades sustained bruises and perhaps worse injuries from unnecessary police use of pain compliance measures.  Please consider contributing to their legal funds pooled by Portland Rising Tide [10].  In the wake of this mayhem, the blockades slowed Omega Morgan a few hours before it reached H, Austin Junction, about 30 miles east on Highway 26.

On the following day, Tuesday, December 17, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) waved all responsibility for public safety, by allowing the Omega Morgan load to travel during the day [11].  The dangerous, 901,000-pound, 376 feet-long, 22 feet-wide megaload typically moves during nights, to offset the impacts on other traffic of its enormous size and slow speed of 10 to 25 miles per hour.  A similar size megaload toppled in the Portland suburb of Gladstone, Oregon, and confounded Interstate 205 access for hours in early December [12].  Apparently, when Omega Morgan started running behind schedule and voiced concerns about frost on Eldorado Pass, it simply obtained ODOT permission to transport during daylight hours.  (WIRT hopes that our public “night-frozen rain” remark did not precipitate Omega Morgan’s request.)  The overlegal load covered 44 miles on Tuesday to I, four miles east of Ironside, and sparked citizen outcry [13, 14].  Our Oregon allies have asked WIRT activists to email or phone ODOT Director Garrett, to tell him that altering the megaload permit to allow daytime travel last week was not acceptable [15].  Please also share this action prompt with your networks, especially among Oregonians.

Perhaps as responsive karma to changing the rules and oppressing citizens, Omega Morgan megaload movement has been hampered by inclement weather and accompanying risky road conditions for all but one night since Tuesday, December 17 [16, 17, 18].  On Thursday, December 19, at 8 pm, it pushed 45 southeast miles to reach J, Vale, by 4 am [19].  Initial news from local media on Friday morning indicated probable delay again, but then announced in the afternoon that the megaload would advance [20, 21].  However, after attaining an ample parking spot at the weigh station about two miles east of town on that December 20, a few inches of snow and non-movement arose on Friday [22, 23].  Nearby activists and residents assumed that it could enter Idaho on Sunday night or take a week off in Vale for the holidays.

Thanks to Mom Nature, plenty of prayers for snow and cold, and the sacrifices of the indigenous and climate protection movements, the first Oregon megaload remained impeded before the Idaho border.  It did not launch from its Vale weigh station parking spot on Friday or Saturday nights, December 20 and 21, seemingly stranded through the holidays [24].  Nevertheless, as the strongest, blessed storms in the Northwest raged over the intended Oregon/Idaho megaload route on Friday evening, December 20, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) issued a permit without a bond, for the behemoth to abuse Idaho roads and bridges [25, 26].  With this news, Omega Morgan said that “they have two more shipments planned, and that this route is not a viable long-term route” [27].  Previous megaloads in north Idaho have already cost ITD and taxpayers more in administrative costs than these transports’ permit fees recoup, in addition to uncalculated and/or undisclosed highway and environmental damage.  Idahoans and Montanans supporting the Nez Perce and other tribes have demonstrated that we will not tolerate such transgressions.  Also on Friday, WIRT received the Idaho Transportation Department’s response to our public records request: documents referencing Omega Morgan’s megaloads on Highway 12 in August, Highway 95 in October and November, and now in southern Idaho [28].  Access the WIRT folder with user name itdcommu and password W39gy7D2.  Over the weekend, we additionally submitted a public records request to ITD District 1 personnel in Coeur d’Alene, to receive information about the three 1.6-million pound Mammoet-hauled megaloads planned to traverse Highway 95 and Interstate 90 in Idaho.

But the biggest emerging news of Friday evening and Saturday, December 20 and 21, was not only that the first Omega Morgan-hauled megaload did not budge from the Vale scale, until weather permitted it to cross into Idaho.  WIRT and allies learned that “the second planned megaload was scheduled to leave the Port of Umatilla on Saturday” [29, 30].  Based on a Saturday 2 pm ODOT media release, the Oregonian and other accounts of this development at least disclosed that the overlegal load would not travel on December 24 or 25 [31].  The second of three oversize transports began its weeks-long invasion of eastern Oregon, from the Port of Umatilla on Sunday night, December 22, between 8 pm and 6 am [32].  Like the first such transport on its southeastern route to Idaho, the two-lane rural highway hog will purportedly cause overnight traffic delays of up to twenty minutes, while it moves less than 60 miles per night, with occasional daytime passage under special permit conditions.

On both Saturday and Sunday, vigilant Idaho activists struggled to discern whether the first Omega Morgan-hauled megaload would enter Idaho and thus mobilize protests on the following night.  Saturday evening Boise television news reports suggested that it could move that night, so three valiant, southern Idaho allies again scouted the load and route in nearby Vale, as WIRT prepared to daily announce or postpone protesting and monitoring activities in Oregon and Idaho.  We considered that our adversaries also read our ongoing public updates on the WIRT facebook and website pages, so when we say “no,” they could “go,” even pushing through a snowstorm, as WIRT allies have documented below Lolo Pass in Idaho.  In news stories, both Omega Morgan and ITD stated that road and weather conditions had stalled the megaload.  But on-site observers of the transport near Vale reported a lit-up road sign indicating December 21 to 23 travel dates, support vehicles gathering around the load, a truck parked near one of the sharp turns ahead, and sanding of already clear, downroad Highway 201.  Eventually, one of the monitors talked with an Omega Morgan/Red Wolf Traffic Control crew member, who said that icy road conditions had halted the megaload.  So on Winter Solstice, Saturday, December 21, for a second night, snowy circumstances prevented the first shipment from traveling.

Idahoans expected an inch of snow on Sunday night, its aftermath on Monday night, and a holiday break on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.  Nonetheless, Portland and Wild Idaho Rising Tides and allies devised response plans for Sunday night, December 22, when Omega Morgan hauled two evaporator units closer to Alberta tar sands operations: the first from Oregon 13 miles into Idaho and the second from the Port of Umatilla [33, 34].  Again, conflicting media accounts compromised advance notice of Idaho megaload protests, so WIRT called for a second scout to check on Vale transport movement [35, 36, 37].  (All activists should work and travel in at least pairs for safety and security reasons.)  According to TV news, the Omega Morgan megaload seemed – and we announced that it was – stranded again, leaving only Monday night to travel before the mandated, two-night, holiday break.  But a local newspaper that we assumed took weekends off quoted an ODOT spokesman saying that snowpack could scuttle cross-border travel via K, Clark Boulevard, to the Idaho border, L, only 37 miles away, depending on final decisions made at a 7 pm safety meeting.  Local residents and Nyssa Rural Road District officials had previously raised concerns about potential megaload impacts to taxpayers from damage to a nine-mile stretch of Clark Boulevard, between U.S. Highway 20/26 west of Ontario and Oregon Highway 201 near Nyssa [38].  They also confirmed that ODOT lacked authority to approve such transport travel on Clark Boulevard.

Desperate for enough substantial evidence of equipment movement on Sunday evening, to issue an advance action alert for the first southern Idaho megaload protest on Monday night, December 23, in or near Homedale, Marsing, or some other Idaho location, WIRT contacted Boise television news staff.  They had just received an Idaho Transportation Department media release noting that the megaload departed Vale and could soon reach Idaho.  An allied scout viewed the empty Vale weigh station and encountered this first megaload on Clark Boulevard, just past Nyssa, Oregon.  Omega Morgan (or ODOT?) had obviously cleared the convoy’s route of the ice so widespread on surrounding roads.  Meanwhile in Umatilla, the second megaload pulled out of the port, with at least a dozen state, county, and undercover cops in tow.  For a while, outraged monitors followed these weapons of mass destruction, devoid of protests on both ends of their Oregon route.  As the first megaload completed only 95 miles in one week with its Monday morning landing near the junction of U.S. Highway 95 and Idaho Highway 55, just inside the Idaho border, the second shipment made it to the first load’s week-long, layover spot Pendleton.

Although Omega Morgan ingenuously says that it has not “heard any specific plans,” the Hillsboro, Oregon company anticipates protesters in Idaho who “have been pretty vocal about their plans” [39].  It has admitted that it “hires security to travel with the 450-ton load and that local law enforcement officials are notified ahead of time about when the load is expected to travel through specific areas.”  The first megaload can also expect Montana resistance, although “those tracking the move estimate that, with another winter storm approaching, it won’t reach Lost Trail Pass until mid-January” [40].

Regional activists remain concerned that Oregon officials have side-stepped treaty-imperative, formal, government-to-government consultation with tribes whose ceded territories megaloads transgress.  Police behavior during the December 16 blockades also highlights civil liberties violations and potential protester lawsuits, precipitated by citizen-oppressive police states during transport passage.  Hoping for more support of frontline megaload monitoring, protesting, and blockading efforts from litigative, mainstream conservation groups, we also dread tar sands transport incursions through Craters of the Moon National Monument [41].  But ultimately, we cannot fail to act against megaload invasions of our ecosystems, when we know that extracting “Alberta tar sands causes irreversible environmental damage, leads to large emissions of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases, pollutes both ground and surface water, and ruins wetlands used by numerous species of migrating waterfowl” [42].  Thanks to each of you who have supported WIRT both physically and fiscally, who have written letters voicing your concerns to as many regional newspapers as will publish them, and who have invited your friends to ongoing protests while social media blocked our since restored outreach.

Wild Idaho Rising Tide

P.O. Box 9817, Moscow, Idaho 83843





[1] Umatilla, Oregon, to Homedale, Idaho (December 21 Google Maps)

[2] Umatilla Tribe Battles Mega-Loads Headed for Alberta Oil Sands (December 11 Indian Country Today)

[3] Highway 395 B Northbound through Oregon (November 19 Wild Idaho Rising Tide)

[4] Megaload Inches Toward the JD Valley (December 13 Blue Mountain Eagle)

[5] Dale, Oregon, to U.S. 395 S/Pendleton-John Day Highway (December 13 Google Maps)

[6] Megaload Parked in John Day – Until Tonight (December 16 Blue Mountain Eagle)

[7] Stop the Tar Sands Megaloads in Oregon! 12-1to16-13 (December 1 Wild Idaho Rising Tide)

[8] Megaload Motors through John Day (December 16 MyEagleNews)

[9] Sixteen Arrested Blocking Tar Sands Megaload in Oregon (December 18 EcoWatch)

[10] Megaload Support – Portland Rising Tide (WePay)

[11] Megaload Travels by Day, May be in Vale by Thursday (December 17 Argus Observer)

[12] Big Transport Job Gone Wrong: Truck Stuck on I-205 Ramp (December 3 KPTV)

[13] Megaload Has Reached the County (December 18 Argus Observer)

[14] Megaload Taking the High Road to Idaho (December 18 KBOI 2 News)

[15] Call to Action: Tell ODOT that Sacrificing Public Safety for Big Oil’s Profit is Not Acceptable (December 18 All Against the Haul)

[16] Megaload to Arrive in Idaho Early Next Week (December 14 Idaho Press-Tribune)

[17] ITD Official: Megaload Could Be in Idaho Thursday (December 18 KTVB)

[18] Weather Causes Megaload Delay (December 18 Argus Observer)

[19] Megaload Moves Closer to Idaho Despite Protests (December 19 Twin Falls Times-News)

[20] Megaload Megaslowed by Weather (December 19 Argus Observer)

[21] Megaload Expected in Vale Friday Morning (December 19 Argus Observer)

[22] Megaload Quietly Slips into Town, Cargo Parked Just Outside of Vale (December 20 Argus Observer)

[23] Upper Treasure Valley Local Storm Report (December 20 KTVB)

[24] Megaload Delayed by Weather (December 20 Idaho Press-Tribune)

[25] Storm Prediction Center (NOAA/National Weather Service)

[26] Permit Issued for Equipment Shipment to Travel on Southern, Eastern Idaho Highways (Idaho Transportation Department)

[27] ITD Issues Permit for Megaload to Cross Idaho Highways (December 20 KTVB)

[28] FTP Directory/WIRT/ (December 20 Idaho Transportation Department)

[29] Megaload Won’t Travel Friday Night; Second Megaload Coming (December 20 Argus Observer)

[30] Megaload – The Sequel – Coming to Eastern Oregon (December 21 Blue Mountain Eagle)

[31] Omega Morgan Plans to Start Hauling Second of Three Megaloads Sunday with Potential Delays and Protests (December 21 Oregonian)

[32] Oregon Large Load Map (Oregon Department of Transportation)

[33] Megaload Halted in Oregon Due to Weather Conditions (December 21 Twin Falls Times-News)

[34] Bad Weather Will Keep Megaload out of Idaho for Another Night (December 21)

[35] Megaload Remained in Area Over Weekend (December 22 Argus Observer)

[36] Snowy Weather Delays Megaload Again (December 22 KTVB)

[37] Megaload Expected to Leave Oregon Tonight (December 22 Argus Observer)

[38] Can Clark Boulevard Handle the Megaload? (December 15 Argus Observer)

[39] Idaho Issues Permit for Megaload to Cross State, Climb Lost Trail Pass (December 21 Missoulian)

[40] Three 1.6-Million-Pound Megaloads Bound for Idaho, Montana (December 16 Missoulian)

[41] Protesters Delay Megaload in Oregon (December 18 Idaho Mountain Express)

[42] Megaload Inching Closer to Idaho (December 13 Idaho Mountain Express)

1 thought on “WIRT Newsletter: Friday Southern Idaho Protest, First Oregon Megaload Travails

  1. Pingback: Third Omega Morgan Megaload Southern Idaho Report | Wild Idaho Rising Tide

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