WIRT Newsletter: Megaload Calls to Action on Tuesday in Moscow, Missoula, & Beyond

No Idaho Megaload Bond

On January 3, 2014, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) issued a permit for a second Omega Morgan-hauled oversize tar sands equipment load to travel across southern and eastern Idaho, from the Homedale area to Lost Trail Pass [1].  Dissimilar to Oregon and Montana megaload policies but like the prior first of three such shipments, bound for mining operations in northeastern Alberta, Canada, the state did not require a bond from Omega Morgan, to offset possible accidents and damages to Idaho taxpayer-financed, public highways, bridges, and associated structures [2].  Neither did Idaho mandate reimbursement by the shipper of additional costs borne by the state agency, including extra administrative expenses that have previously spurred the legislature to raise permitting fees.  These massive transports, composed of three pull and push trucks, several trailers, and a huge evaporator core/heat exchanger, weigh between 800,000 and 900,000 pounds, stretch out to 376 feet long, crowd both sides of 24-foot-wide, two-lane highways, and tower up to 19 feet, too high to fit under 16-foot-tall interstate overpasses.  Traveling through foggy farmlands, icy river canyons, and over snowy mountain passes, what could possibly go wrong [3]?

Ongoing Megaload-Inflicted Damages

In northern Idaho, megaloads have imperiled the safety and schedules of travelers, delayed and blocked traffic with their 16- to 24-foot widths and lengthy convoys, impeded public and private emergency services, caused personal injury and property damage through numerous collisions with vehicles, power lines, cliffs, and tree branches, degraded highways with washboard ruts in lane centers, and pummeled saturated road beds, crumbling shoulders, and outdated bridges [4].  Citizens concerned about the lax state oversight and myriad impacts of these overlegal loads, who have monitored, documented, and protested dangerous convoy practices and conditions, have additionally faced unwarranted targeting, surveillance, intimidation, harassment, and arrest by state troopers and county and city police sworn to serve public safety, but who instead protect corporate interests that challenge Idahoans’ civil liberties and risk the health and wellbeing of people, places, and the planet [5].

Omega Morgan on Six Scenic Byways

If Idaho, according to Karen Ballard of the Idaho Department of Commerce, is the “scenic byway state,” why is ITD allowing hauling companies like Omega Morgan, Mammoet, and other extreme energy facilitators to impact our most cherished routes with repeated, heavy loads on older, decrepit infrastructure, particularly during harsh, brittle winter months [6]?  During their forays across southern Idaho, Omega Morgan transports trampled two miles of the Owyhee Uplands Backcountry Byway on Idaho Highway 78, six miles of the Oregon Trail Backcountry Byway and 62 miles of the Peaks to Craters Byway on U.S. Highway 20, which also traverses or abuts 21 miles of Craters of the Moon National Monument [7].  In eastern Idaho, almost the entire megaload route consists of not only scenic but historically significant routes: 105 miles of the Sacajawea Historic Byway and two miles of the Lewis and Clark Backcountry Byway on Idaho Highway 28, and 46 miles of the Salmon River Scenic Byway on U.S. Highway 93.  Of the 476 miles that tar sands convoys rumble over in southern and eastern Idaho, almost half – 223 miles – cover these federally designated highways.  Idaho could not find a swifter way to dissuade visitors and new residents or to reduce tourism and recreation revenues to the state coffers than to transform beautiful byways into industrial corridors for dirty energy extraction and transportation. Continue reading