WIRT Newsletter: Megaload Movements, Nez Perce Summit, Transportation Board U.S. 95 Tour

Port of Wilma Megaloads on the Move!

Borg Hendrickson of the People of Highway 12 Fighting Goliath wrote this week that observers noticed on Tuesday, July 15, that California heavy-hauler Bigge Crane and Rigging has placed two of the three megaloads parked at the Port of Wilma on relatively short, 12-axle trailers.  The third behemoth continues to rust on jacks.  Originally proposed for transport by Mammoet, from the port to the Calumet tar sands refinery in Great Falls, Montana, via U.S. Highway 95 and either Interstate 90 or Idaho Highway 200, the tremendously heavy but not particularly large or long parts of a hydrocracker have remained stalled at the port across the river from Clarkston, Washington, by logistical problems and regional resistance since December 2013.  Mammoet had planned to carry them each on interconnected trailers propelled by one pull truck and two push trucks, together stretching over 450 feet and weighing 1.6 million pounds, the longest and heaviest megaloads to ever crush Highway 95.

As chronicled by late-May, Idaho newspaper articles and June WIRT scouting trips, photos, and newsletters, two of these loads could possibly travel by rail and the other by road through the Moscow, Idaho, sacrifice zone for all failed Highway 12 attempts [1].  Because the short Bigge trailers under two colossal loads likely do not meet state requirements for distributing load weights over numerous axles during cross-state highway journeys, Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) and allies anticipate that Bigge is preparing them for their departure either by rail, on Watco Companies’ Great Northwest Railroad, or by barge, shipped back down the Snake River probably to the Tri-Cities, Washington, for transport by rail or highway through eastern Washington and northern Idaho.

On Thursday, July 17, WIRT unsuccessfully tried to reach by phone Jason Minzghor, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) District 1 operations manager in Coeur d’Alene, because he was curiously in Sandpoint, Idaho.  So, in response to Port of Wilma megaloads on the move, WIRT sent another public records request to ITD director Brian Ness, public involvement coordinator Adam Rush, and Mr. Minzghor, asking for “information about proposals to transport three loads currently parked at the Port of Wilma, Washington, on any highway, street, or rail route in Idaho to Great Falls, Montana, or alternative destinations,” dating back to April 2014 material that ITD refused to acknowledge and release to WIRT.  Please stay alert to movement of these megaloads on regional rivers, roads, or rails, remain prepared for last-minute calls to stage a riverside bon voyage celebration and rally, and share any updates or photos that may quickly arise from this situation.

Washington Highway 12 Megaloads

An Earth First! activist reported seeing three megaloads – simple cylinders with the name Siemens on them, but probably not tar sands transports – parked along U.S. Highway 12 just east of Walla Walla, Washington, on Monday, July 14.  He viewed another unmarked module about 30 to 40 miles west of Clarkston.

Second Nez Perce Grassroots Environmental Summit

As a third reminder, the Nez Perce grassroots group, Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment, is planning a second environmental summit held at the Pi-Nee-Waus Community Center, 99 Agency Road in Lapwai, Idaho [2].  Group activists invite all tribal members and supporters.  Along with dinner and lunch on each day, they will offer a strategic planning training on Friday evening, July 18, and roundtable discussions addressing a wide variety of issues, including water, salmon, land, air, and treaty rights, from 9 am until 5 pm on Saturday, July 19.  Contact Julian Matthews at 208-790-4296 or jmatthews@alumni.uidaho.edu, for further information.

Report on Transportation Board Highway 95 Tour Outcomes

With the Idaho Transportation Department’s latest fiasco wedged into a week of bomb train actions requiring plenty of presence in and travel to Sandpoint, Idaho, and Spokane, Washington, the Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition (PRDC) and WIRT only minimally took advantage of opportunities to meet with Idaho officials and agencies about the latest developments of ITD’s scheme to realign and expand Highway 95 onto Paradise Ridge south of Moscow.  We would have appreciated more advance tactical and conceptual preparation, not to mention more participation beyond two PRDC/WIRT members, for the Idaho Transportation Board’s tour of the proposed Highway 95 central and eastern re-routing alternatives and their visit of the Moscow Intermodal Transit Center on Thursday, July 10.  Despite other overwhelming obligations, only David Hall and Helen Yost responded to PRDC and WIRT action alerts (Go, Ren Fair royalty!) [3].

Dave and Helen shared PRDC concerns about Highway 95 E-2 realignment and expansion and ITD draft environmental impact statement (DEIS)  misrepresentations, as we gave Idaho Transportation Board District 2 member Jan Vassar and board secretary Sue Higgins some PRDC brochures from last year, to distribute to the board.  We would have also shared other printed outreach material that PRDC generated about DEIS discrepancies, but are belatedly circulating it to the transportation board and to media personnel who have requested it.  Two citizen E-2 proponents and a reporter were on-site at the board’s local tour stops, and the media have been calling and asking how PRDC will proceed.  PRDC and WIRT representatives have provided as much information as we can, while stating that we cannot speak for, but only conjecture about, PRDC strategies and responses, while board members arrange meetings within the group and with lawyers to together devise plans and directional guidance.  Both the Lewiston Tribune and the Moscow-Pullman Daily News covered the Highway 95 reconstruction issue with front-page, above-the-fold articles last week [4, 5].  WIRT offers our gratitude to Daily News staff writer Terri Harber, but especially KRFP station manager and Evening Report creator, Leigh Robartes, for exemplary, detailed coverage of the most salient, previous points and interviews on the issue, with sound bites from Lahde Forbes, Tim Hatten, Al Poplawsky, and Helen [6-8].

However cynically, none of the activists who have been battling ITD over its insistence on the E-2 alternative have been surprised by ITD’s recent choice.  But as the remainder of the federally mandated decision process on a new U.S. 95 alignment stretches into summer and fall 2014, PRDC will be talking with an attorney, scrutinizing ITD’s new and revised technical documents and safety assessments, and determining and developing significant analyses, specific counter-information, and clear explanations for the public and media.  Please watch for and alert PRDC to letters to the editor or other issue developments requiring responses.  As KRFP has effectively noted, ITD has not yet released the final environmental impact statement (FEIS) to the public, while state and federal agencies scrutinize it in Idaho until August and September and the Federal Highway Administration legal section in Washington D.C. examines it this autumn.  Please see the attached screen shot of the ITD project website that states, “We (ITD) expect to post the document (FEIS) on the Federal Register for a 30-day review by local resource agencies AND THE PUBLIC by mid-October” (emphasis added).  The Palouse community should hold ITD to this declaration of further public input, and start rallying to comment and/or litigate after the academic year starts.

[1] WIRT Newsletter: Retreating Highway 95 Megaloads, Montana Manufacturers, Idaho Resistance Prevails? (June 21, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide)

[2] Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment (Facebook community page)

[3] Join the Transportation Board Thursday Tour & Moscow Visit: Final Highway 95 EIS Chose Paradise Ridge Reroute (July 9, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide)

[4] U.S. 95 Reroute May Be Crawling Closer (July 9, 2014 Lewiston Tribune)

[5] State Highway Officials Tour Realignment Picked for 95 South of Moscow (July 11, 2014 Moscow-Pullman Daily News)

[6] Idaho Transportation Department Releases Final Environmental Impact Statement on Widening U.S. 95 South of Moscow; Still Prefers Eastern Route over Paradise Ridge (July 9, 2014 KRFP Evening Report, between 19:32 and 6:36 LoFi)

[7] Idaho Transportation Board Visits U.S. 95 Realignment Vantage Point South of Moscow (July 10, 2014 KRFP Evening Report, between 20:30 and 10:29 LoFi)

[8] U.S. 95 Route Decision (July 11, 2014 KRFP Evening Report, between 14:39 and 1:32 LoFi)

1 thought on “WIRT Newsletter: Megaload Movements, Nez Perce Summit, Transportation Board U.S. 95 Tour

  1. Pingback: Bigge Stages the Last Calumet Megaload | Wild Idaho Rising Tide

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