Third Omega Morgan Megaload Southern Idaho Report

Missing Oregon/Idaho Megaload

In response to the Idaho Transportation Department’s (ITD) atypical early warning on Friday, February 14, that an Omega Morgan tar sands megaload would cross into Idaho during the ensuing, usual dearth of weekend media information, Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) reluctantly composed a call-to-action for southern Idaho on February 16 [1].  We remembered the last time that WIRT proclaimed that this could be the “last chance” to protest megaloads on a certain route, in that last case, Highway 12, as the first Omega Morgan shipments rolled in October and December 2012.  WIRT and allies assumed that Idaho Rivers United would win their federal court case during the following February, which they did.  But Omega Morgan nonetheless tried to access Highway 12 again in August 2013, and the world knows what happened next.  Of the eight to ten loads that the hauling company originally proposed for Highway 12 since last summer, one entire load crossed Highway 12, another traversed Highway 95 in five parts during October and November 2013, and three core pieces have launched from Oregon.  WIRT is wondering where the other three to five Omega Morgan shipments went.  Do the three latest transports really signal the conclusion of eastern Oregon/southern Idaho route use, or will tar sands infrastructure haulers keep coming, not to mention through the Highway 95 sacrifice zone?  Although we understand the difficulty in turning from the dead-end, destructive, fossil-fuel path that currently careens the world into climate chaos, we are amazed at how much money corporations keep investing in these ridiculous megaload maneuvers, as activists work to correct their course.

WIRT received news on Monday, February 17, that the third Omega Morgan tar sands megaload originating at the Port of Umatilla was still in Oregon [2].  We suspected that our press release on the previous day nudged the regional media into keeping citizens informed about this issue.  But during its emergence from a media blackout, the transport left John Day and traveled during daylight hours, to avoid possible night-time ice and fog over Eldorado Pass.  As during Oregon passage of the first two Omega Morgan megaloads, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) again allowed the heavy hauler to change its permit and thus compromise the safety and convenience of daytime travelers without advance notice [3].  To accommodate Big Oil profits, state governments apparently work for the corporations or higher government, not the people.  WIRT and allies once more encouraged Oregonians to call or email ODOT director Matthew Garrett in politely forceful protest of this policy, based on information provided by All Against the Haul, a partner group that has mobilized Montanans and helped Act on Climate initiate the Oregon lawsuit against megaloads [4].

On the same day, February 17, the Mountain Home News declared that the third shipment, using the same route and schedule as previous loads, could pass through its city in Elmore County on either Tuesday or Wednesday nights that week, depending on how fast it moved after entering southern Idaho [5].  But protesters did not anticipate the megaload arriving in Idaho until these nights, particularly if weather and road conditions slowed it down.  While constantly and tentatively updating our event announcement and postponing the schedule of the first, soonest possible demonstration in Marsing among successive Idaho protests, WIRT experienced difficulty locating the Omega Morgan transport, likely still in eastern Oregon.  We contacted a Boise news agency that said the megaload was last reported in Vale, Oregon, but neither Vale nor Marsing area businesses had seen it yet.  Finally, on Wednesday, February 19, a Wood River Valley newspaper reported that:

The megaload…was parked Tuesday afternoon alongside U.S. Highway 26, about 23 miles southeast of Unity, Oregon, and about 45 miles northwest of Vale, Oregon…  Wild Idaho Rising Tide and other environmental groups have staged numerous protests, including at Timmerman Junction, as the megaloads travel toward Athabasca.  The organization announced in its news release that a protest is planned for Timmerman Junction when the third megaload passes through…  The organization and other environmental groups claim they oppose the shipments because of the potential for road and bridge damage and because the Athabasca tar sands operation causes irreversible environmental damage, leads to large emissions of greenhouse gases, pollutes both ground and surface water, ruins wetlands for numerous species of migrating waterfowl, and violates treaty agreements with Indian tribes in both the U.S. and Canada [6]. Continue reading