Calumet Megaloads Depart the Port of Wilma


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Calumet Megaloads Depart the Port of Wilma 7-19-14 (July 19, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide photos)

According to at least four Saturday, July 19, Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) eyewitnesses, two of the three Calumet tar sands refinery hydrocracker sections stranded at the Port of Wilma, Washington, since mid-December 2013 have vanished [1].  During the week of July 20, Bigge Crane and Rigging of San Leandro, California, is likely hauling these megaloads via river, rail, or road, from the port on the Snake River near Clarkston to the Montana Refining Company in Great Falls.  Last observed and described (but not documented with photos?) on short, heavy-duty, 12-axle trailers at the port on Tuesday, July 15, the loads were missing when a Saturday morning scout noticed crews still in the port lot previously leased for storage and staging of Omega Morgan “water filtration units.”  Questions about whether the hydrocracker parts departed by barge or rail downriver still linger, but after only a few days of travel, these megaloads may not have gone far.

In the fenced port compound, Bigge left white trailer pieces resembling the steel suspension systems seen around other huge fossil fuel extraction contraptions in the region since February 2011.  The company also abandoned the half-million-pound, lightest weight piece of the hydrocracker, the bottom part of the column formed by stacking the three components upright.  Its largest diameter, not weight, may have proved the critical factor restricting its passage by train through tunnels, close bi-directional tracks, or other rail line impediments [2].  Megaload owners and haulers cannot further downsize the three rusty, cylindrical sections and, as announced by late-May newspaper accounts, are probably shipping them to a trans-loading facility for transport on Schnabel train cars [3].  They could be moving the megaloads to the Port of Umatilla on the Oregon side of the Columbia River and attempting the previously permitted eastern Oregon, southern Idaho, and western Montana heavy-haul route pummeled by three almost-as-massive Omega Morgan loads last winter, especially while forest fires close eastern Oregon rural routes.

But a stronger possibility, outlined in the June 21, 2014 WIRT newsletter, entails carrying the two heavier loads, 573,000 and 661,000 pounds respectively, west on barges down the Snake River or by train on the Watco Companies Great Northwest Railroad to the Tri-Cities, Washington [4].  As oncoming traffic to the potentially explosive and fragile DOT-111 and DOT-111A oil tank cars of unit “bomb trains” headed from the fracked Bakken shale region to the West Coast, the megaloads could travel north on either the Union Pacific or Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) rail lines to Bonners Ferry, Idaho, then eastward on the BNSF railroad to a spur line heading south from Shelby to Great Falls, Montana [1, 5].  The remaining 504,000-pound behemoth could soon labor up the Lewiston Grade and U.S. Highway 95 through Moscow and over the two-mile Long Bridge to Sandpoint, Idaho, and Idaho Highway 200 to Montana.

Even stranger occurrences lead WIRT to suspect that tar sands refinery expansion facilitators are transporting these two megaloads by rail.  At 2 am one morning during the dark, new moon phase two weeks ago, a loud train horn awakened residents living along railroad tracks near the Palouse River north of Moscow, where trains have never moved after about 4:30 pm for over ten years.  That night, a train similar to the one that travels empty to Bennett Lumber in Princeton, Idaho, and leaves full of plywood approximately three times per week passed by.  Observers saw a train engine proceeding very slowly and pulling two flat cars carrying between them unseen, enormous cargo, much taller than the engine.  As the train neared a sharp bend in the tracks, it stopped, backed up, and tried to move forward three times, before finally retreating to the west and south of its origin.  A couple of nights before the train incident, nearby residents heard a small drone fly over the same area.

Participants in the Nez Perce Environmental Summit on July 19 discovered these two megaloads disappeared from the Port of Wilma.  Unfortunately, in a room full of Nimiipuu warriors and allies, no one publicly spoke of the threats to people, places, and the planet of these particular monsters crawling through ancestral homelands on routes other than Highway 12 and ultimately tripling Great Falls refinery production of Alberta tar sands, Bow River crude, and Bakken shale oil.  If people across the Northwest are truly intent to halt the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure and subsequent ecocide, genocide, and climate chaos, we must vigilantly keep our eyes and ears open to these megaloads on regional rivers, rails, and roads over the next several days and nights, especially in eastern Washington, northern Idaho, and around the railroad funnels in and between Spokane and Sandpoint.  If the gargantuan transports are moving by rail, community and tribal emergency response personnel – but not the public – will receive advance notification of their itinerary.  By road, they travel mostly at night on rural routes and stay parked and guarded during the day.  We need everyone to watch, report to WIRT, and stop these loads, and Great Falls activists to monitor their approach to and arrival at the refinery.

[1] Calumet Megaloads Depart the Port of Wilma 7-19-14 (July 19, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide photos)

[2] Mammoet/Perkins MegaLoads (May 21, 2014 Herb Goodwin photos)

[3] Train MegaLoads (July 19, 2014 Herb Goodwin photos)

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

[5] North American Crude by Rail (June 2014 Oil Change International)

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2 thoughts on “Calumet Megaloads Depart the Port of Wilma

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

  2. Pingback: Bigge Stages the Last Calumet Megaload | News4Security

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