WIRT Newsletter: Highway 95 Megaload Resistance & Missing Trailer, Grassroots Environmen​tal Summit & Protests

Missing Mammoet Megaload Trailer

At 1 pm on Monday, May 5, 2014, a photo taken by Moscow documentarian Tom Hansen at the Port of Wilma, Washington, revealed breaking news about the heaviest and longest megaloads ever proposed for passage on U.S. Highway 95 and either Interstate 90 or Idaho Highway 200 [1].  During the week since the April 28, 2014 scouting expedition by a core Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) activist, megaload hauler Mammoet had removed its only trailer from one of three hydrocracker parts, bound on a 1.6-million-pound, 441-feet-long assemblage of cargo, trailers, and trucks for a tar sands refinery expansion in Great Falls, Montana [2, 3].  Like previous observations, push and pull trucks and security guards were noticeably missing from the leased port yard.  Either temporarily or permanently, Mammoet has apparently been dissuaded by a coalition of allied organizations and/or has abandoned both recently identified northern Idaho megaload shipment routes to Montana.  A comment by an aggravated opponent, in response to the last, website-posted WIRT newsletter, at about the same time as discovery of the missing trailer, may indicate that these behemoths and other tar sands modules could take circuitous paths from West Coast ports [4].

These units of an essential, industrial component of Calumet Specialty Products Partners’ $400 million Montana Refining Company expansion project have been awaiting transport at the Port of Wilma by the Snake River near Clarkston, since mid-December 2013.  The installed hydrocracker with a 25,000-barrels-per-day (bpd) capacity could double refinery production from 10,000 to 20,000 bpd, starting during the first quarter of 2016 [5].  Calumet plans to convert crude tar sands bitumen into diesel fuel that powers the mining equipment and trucking fleets operating in the sacrifice zone of fracked Bakken shale oil extraction.  Over the last year, removal of several large refinery tanks, excavation of 15,000 cubic yards of soil contaminated mainly by lead and gasoline, and purported “air-tight” rail car shipment of the hazardous waste to an appropriate facility in Indiana have delayed expansion project construction until after August 1, 2014 [6].  Now, the timely delivery of this rusty remnant of a bygone fossil fuel era and its mechanical integrity under high-pressure and -temperature operating conditions, after years of horizontal exposure to weather, are precarious and questionable, thanks to poor industry planning and commendable public involvement in the situation.

Resistance to Highway 95 Megaloads

Since the onset of this second controversy over Mammoet tar sands transports on Highway 95, after 32 nights of megaload convoys prompted relentless WIRT protests and monitoring forays in 2011-12, northern Idaho and eastern Washington citizens and organizations have demonstrated disapproval of government agency and public input processes [7, 8].  Even while staging and supporting 28 protests of three half-as-large Omega Morgan tar sands mining equipment shipments, each moving 1200 miles across three states during four winter months, WIRT and allies attended and protested at Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) and City of Moscow meetings, requested ITD public records, and publicly posted the results and other information about this Mammoet transportation scheme [9].  Five regional, grassroots, conservation- and climate change-oriented groups including WIRT forced extended and expanded environmental analysis, public involvement, and subsequent diversion of Mammoet’s first proposed hydrocracker route through Coeur d’Alene, via a co-written letter of concern sent to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), ITD, and other responsible city, county, state, and federal representatives and environmental, transportation, and wildlife agencies [10].  WIRT organized and scheduled five meetings/presentations and direct action training sessions for tribal and climate activists in four northern Idaho cities, and scouted, photographed, and videotaped both the potential East Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive/temporary Interstate 90 on-ramp route and the proposed alternative course over the almost two-mile-long Highway 95 Long Bridge near Sandpoint and the federally-designated Highway 200 Pend Oreille Scenic Byway through or near six state wildlife management areas or preserves [4, 11, 12]. Continue reading