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].

In response to late-April 2014 WIRT public records requests, ITD District 1 staff said that FHWA, ITD, Mammoet, and their contractors had generated no new public records pertaining to this Highway 95 megaload proposal, since ITD’s March 24 transmission of public records to WIRT [4].  This statement contradicts the April 18, 2014 Bonner County Daily Bee article relaying ITD descriptions of current weight-bearing analyses of Highway 95 and 200 bridges by contracted engineering consulting firm Forsgren Associates [13].  A similar ITD assurance that this planned Mammoet haul would not occur for an extended period of time conflicts with the same article’s mention that, “A permit for the oversized loads could be issued in the next three to five weeks,” after determinations of bridge crossing safety.  Most surprisingly, ITD asserted that Idaho Highway 200 and the Highway 95 Long Bridge are not parts of a viable route for this transportation project, and Mammoet will need to find other routes for hauling these three massive loads to Great Falls, Montana.  Amid megaload routing and timing uncertainties, WIRT awaits a requested letter and phone message response from ITD, confirming this information offered during a phone conversation and explaining the missing Port of Wilma megaload trailer [14, 15].  WIRT and allies will continue to pressure ITD, FHWA, and other state and federal agencies for obviously withheld and delayed public records and accountability to the people, rather than the political power structures, of Idaho.

Grassroots Environmental Summit, Protest, & Light Show

For weeks in advance, WIRT and allies rallied the interest and participation of dozens of tribal and supportive activists from across the region, who traveled hundreds of miles from Montana, Oregon, and Washington to converge with the approximately 70 attendees of the Nez Perce Grassroots Environmental Summit on Friday, May 9, 2014 [16, 17].  The academic conference format of the event run primarily by males comprised a seemingly endless succession of issue lectures given to an attentive but restless audience, even during lunch.  Nez Perce Tribal Environmental Association and Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous Peoples organizers successfully established but relinquished a vitally important and urgent opportunity to network and strategize, by scheduling too few breaks long enough to connect with crucial, distant allies, and by asking guests to wait to speak until the conclusion of the six-hour-long summit.  The majority of frontline Nez Perce and climate activists, who led the impromptu August 2013 tar sands megaload protests that inspired the world and regional participation in the summit, who coordinated subsequent tribal meetings and teach-ins, and who fostered region-wide megaload resistance through the courts and streets since 2010, were not on the pre-arranged presenter agenda, although a large, nationwide, non-governmental organization was.  Another summit may possibly occur at the beginning of June, perhaps with intentions to broaden and sustain substantive conversations, offer more possibilities for action, and gather in a circle, beyond formal, one-sided “discussions” that promote and maintain oppressive power structures.

WIRT and Spokane Rising Tide activists and Bellingham megaload resistance partners invited summit participants to meet at the Port of Wilma afterwards, to witness the three 1.6-million-pound hydrocracker units off trailers, costing Mammoet storage rent for an undetermined amount of time.  Demonstrating intentions to banish all fossil fuel infrastructure and megaload invasions from the four-state Northwest, seven protesters stood with signs and banners in the cloudy Friday evening light, near the fenced port yard harboring the abandoned loads, and documented the occasion and conditions via photographs and videos [18].  Four hours later at 9:30 pm, as Washington State University graduates, their families, and other Friday night revelers celebrated in downtown Moscow, Ziggy of Spokane Rising Tide and Bellingham and Moscow allies staged a light projection action.  Utilizing theater lights and other equipment, they lit up the silos near Seventh and Jackson Streets with slogans naming the hosting organizations (Spokane and Wild Idaho Rising Tides, Backbone Campaign, and Occupy Spokane) and describing shared campaign goals.  At the top of a white, rectangular silo over 100 feet high, in a college town with few tall buildings, passersby could see from miles away exclamatory remarks like “No Megaloads,” “Stop Tar Sands,” “No Coal Exports,” “Oil Trains = Bombs on Rails,” “End Fossil Fuel Foolishness,” and “Ziggy Was Here,” among others.

[1] The Three Megaloads: Places to Go, But No Way to Get There (May 5, 2014 Tom Hansen photo)

[2] Mammoet MegaLoads – Port of Wilma – 4/28/2014 (April 28, 2014 Herb Goodwin photos)

[3] Calumet Refinery Megaload Off Trailer at Port of Wilma (May 5, 2014 KRFP Evening Report)

[4] WIRT Newsletter: Congratulations, Condolence​s, Upcoming Events, and Highway 95/200 Megaloads (May 2, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide)

[5] Calumet Specialty Products Partners, L.P. Reports First Quarter 2014 Results (May 7, 2014 Wall Street Transcript)

[6] Contaminated Refinery Soil Poses No Health Concerns (May 1, 2014 KRTV)

[7] Mammoet 2014 Megaloads (Wild Idaho Rising Tide website category)

[8] Newsletters (Wild Idaho Rising Tide website category)

[9] Omega Morgan Megaloads (Wild Idaho Rising Tide website category)

[10] Concerns and Comments about the Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive Temporary Overweight Truck Route (February 6, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide and Allies)

[11] Tribal and Climate Activists Gathering about Mammoet Megaloads (February 25, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide)

[12] Mammoet Megaloads/Keystone XL Pipeline Gatherings and Trainings (March 31, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide)

[13] County May Be Path of Least Resistance for Megaloads (April 18, 2014 Bonner County Daily Bee)

[14] Mammoet Megaload Proposal Public Records Request [1] 4-29-14 (April 29, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide)

[15] Mammoet Megaload Proposal Public Records Request [2] 4-29-14 (April 29, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide)

[16] Nez Perce Tribal Members Grassroots Environmental Summit (April 19, 2014 Julian Matthews facebook event)

[17] Nez Perce Grassroots Environmental Summit (April 25, 2014 Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous Peoples poster)

[18] Après Nez Perce Grassroots Environmental Summit 5-9-14 (May 9, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide photos)

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

  1. You all have done an amazing job of documenting, among all of your other activists activities. I have nothing but admiration.

  2. Pingback: WIRT Newsletter: Mammoet Withdraws Megaload Permits, But Perkins, the People, & the Ports Push On | Wild Idaho Rising Tide

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