WIRT Newsletter: Thursday WIRT Planning Potluck, Montana & Sandpoint Megaload Updates

WIRT Potluck/Planning Meeting Every Thursday

Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) would appreciate WIRT activists stepping forward to design direct actions before the next, heaviest and longest megaload ever to traverse northern Idaho’s dilapidated, publicly-owned infrastructure launches from the Port of Wilma near Clarkston, Washington.  Please join us this (and any or every!) Thursday, August 7, at 7 pm at the WIRT Activists House (call 208-301-8039 for directions, if necessary).  We plan to share potluck food and strategize and prepare for tar sands megaload and coal export actions that entail more than just showing up and waving signs.  Please participate in the many necessary roles and work carried forward by the WIRT collective every day!  Through various methods over the next few weeks, we are working to hold state and federal agencies and fossil fuel companies regionally responsible for more transparency, public involvement, and stewardship [1].

Montana Megaload Updates

On Monday afternoon, August 4, one of WIRT’s amazing Montana allies posted a question on the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) website and received this polite and prompt reply: “Thank you for visiting our website and your inquiry concerning Mammoet Company or Bigge Crane and Rigging.  They have been working through the process, and no permits have been issued at this time.”  In his email reply, our friend asked MDT’s Dan Kiely if he could please notify him if MDT grants a permit for this megaload.  He is also keeping his Flathead Reservation tribal council friends and other neighbors apprised of the situation.

During Tuesday morning and Wednesday afternoon, August 5 and 6, the Montana Department of Transportation sent a follow-up note about the planned Calumet tar sands refinery hydrocracker part shipment to the same Montana comrade.  It stated “MDT is planning on issuing a press release prior to any movement in Montana.  Just for a point of clarification, the proposal that is under review only lists U.S. Highway 93 in the Kalispell area.”  Why was MDT so quick to clarify, even without a query [2]?

As suspected and upon further correspondence with MDT to ascertain the latest Montana megaload plan, the agency refers to a proposed Bigge Crane and Rigging transport route, submitted to MDT for review and approval, similar to Mammoet’s April scheme avoiding Montana Highway 200 through the Flathead Reservation.  Instead, the megaload would enter the state from Idaho on Highway 200, then travel on Montana Highway 56 through the beautiful Bull River Valley near the Cabinet Mountains, then move east on U.S. Highway 2 to Kalispell, Montana [3].  The million-plus-pound behemoth would then make a 31-mile, northerly detour around the 14-foot-high railroad overpass above East Idaho Street in Kalispell: North on Route 424 and Highway 93, east on Montana Highway 40 and U.S. Highway 2, then south on Route 206 and Montana Highway 35 to within a few miles of Flathead Lake and the town of Big Fork [See the attached photo: East Idaho Street Kalispell Megaload Obstacle].  It would then invade the wildly scenic Seeley-Swan Valley via Montana Highway 83, to return to eastbound Highway 200 and Great Falls.  To access its Montana Refining Company destination, Bigge would lumber down the Interstate 15 Frontage Road, Northwest Bypass, and the U.S. Highway 87 Bypass/Third Street Northwest in Great Falls.

Kalispell newspaper writers in the new Montana path of megaloads initially conjectured multiple routes on April 1, including Highway 2 to their city, then Highway 93 south to Missoula and Interstate 90, and other options [4].  Other April 2014 media speculation about the Montana megaload route featured a map notably showing a proposed ascent of Marias Pass south of Glacier National Park, taking Highway 2 from Kalispell to Browning, before heading south on Montana Highway 89 to Great Falls [5, 6, see the attached photo: Calumet Megaload Montana Map – KRTV].  According to Missoula megaload blockader Carol Marsh on April 24, the Montana Department of Transportation approved the same weight-tolerant route described here for all three of the largest ever regional megaloads planned by Mammoet, but at the time, had not yet requested a Montana permit.

Have MDT regulators and megaload haulers purposely designed this route to avert traveling through or near not only the Flathead and Blackfoot reservations in Montana but also 12 acres of shared land of a small band of the Kootenai Tribe near Bonners Ferry, Idaho, who refused to sign any treaties with the United States, and even declared war on the U.S. in 1974, and thus have no reservation?  Is the increased mobilization, or just the perceived potential activism, of diverse tribal opposition impacting megaload permitting decisions and thus further raising the complexity and cost of this Montana Refining Company refinery expansion effort?  All non-tribal members need to soon realize that they have as much to lose as tribal neighbors and should also block some megaload roads.  Once they understand that their backyard highways could facilitate the ecocide, genocide, and climate chaos imposed by megaloads, their next steps will hopefully be stronger.

In early April, the Daily Inter Lake newspaper of Kalispell joined at least two other mainstream media editors and/or editorial boards weighing in against megaloads, including the Argus Observer of Ontario, Oregon (across the Snake River from oil and gas drilled Payette County), the Lewiston Tribune, and several more [7].  With the four-state megaload resistance now focused on the Mammoet/Bigge Crane and Rigging-hauled modules soon departing the Lewiston, Idaho, area, each delay and re-route, each security guard at the port, and each extra cop to escort this heaviest and longest megaload increases the cost of extraction of climate-wrecking Canadian tar sands.  If the price of oil does not similarly rise, as most Americans would enjoy or insist, the entire endeavor becomes uneconomical.  As the fiscal and physical bankruptcy of extreme energy production looms, a sustainable energy future dawns.

Sandpoint Megaload News

Over the last week, WIRT has been talking and sharing late breaking news about the current megaload situation with Boise, Moscow, and Sandpoint journalists.  We appreciate the mutual benefit of crucial fact finding and public dissemination of information, which are not so easily accomplished solely by activists, for obvious reasons.  Among numerous concerns expressed during the last four months, residents of the Lake Pend Oreille region near Sandpoint, Idaho, wonder whether the almost two-mile-long Highway 95 Long Bridge over their fifth deepest lake in the U.S. can withstand the weight of this 1.6-million-pound refinery megaload [8].  Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) plans for converting Highway 95 south of Sandpoint into a controlled access highway have determined that the Long Bridge needs replacement.  But the city of Sandpoint has confirmed that it expects the gargantuan piece of industrial equipment to cross Long Bridge at 2 am some morning during the August 7 to 17 Festival at Sandpoint series of musical concerts, one of the largest tourist events of the year [9].  The ‘respectable’ and/or ‘authority,’ figures of Sandpoint do not seem to mind the looming intrusion and traffic conflicts.  Besides typically marginalized activists, city officials could raise some hell about this fiasco happening on any day, but especially during locally significant events, as the Moscow mayor and police chief have.  Some observers suspect that money has silenced their voices that speak on behalf of area residents.  Mayors of other smaller, regional towns along the Idaho Highway 200 trail of megaload destruction have participated in meetings about this situation.  They were unaware that ITD had not yet approved a permit for the transport, when they spoke against the Bigge rig using the highway near their towns, due to its poor condition.  But in response to their concerns, project proponents essentially said, “It’s okay, we have plenty of insurance if there’s a problem.”

Over the last weekend, August 2 and 3, a Highway 200 area resident gathering road measurements encountered a few Bigge crew members doing preliminary measurements and work for megaload passage.  They said that the information in the unused, July 27 to 31 Mammoet permit was incorrect, and that their permit differs for a load that is only 20 feet wide and weighs less than 1.6 million pounds.  Supposedly, the trailer and module without the trucks weigh 700,000 pounds, and they will not use all the trucks going through Hope and other tight spots.  Although they obviously already know the content of the permits, the Bigge workers seemed ashamed that ITD had not issued them a permit yet.

These circumstances have led some of these great sleuths to speculate that, by releasing the July Mammoet permit, even though Bigge is moving a purportedly smaller megaload, ITD has not only set a precedent for huge loads traveling on this route, but is again playing another deceitful shell game with their employer, the Idaho and American taxpaying public.  WIRT has not found a permit for the Bigge subcontractor in our half-finished inspection of over 100 public records received on July 31 from ITD [10].  But in that review, we have noticed weight bearing deficiencies among several Highway 200 bridges.  The most recent Idaho megaload travel plan describes straddling a curved span over Strong Creek with a “jump-bridge” on Wellington Place in East Hope, as the load bypasses the Highway 200 “Bridge to Nowhere” precariously perched over the shoreline of Lake Pend Oreille [11].

[1] Northwest Communities Oppose Coal Exports: Join the Action on August 16 (Blue Skies Campaign)

[2] WIRT Newsletter: Calumet Megaloads, Oil and Gas Rules, Ziggy for State Rep, and Fight or Flight Workshop (August 4, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide)

[3] Wilma Road to Montana Refining Company (Revised April 24, 2014 Google Maps)

[4] Megaloads May Come through Kalispell (April 1, 2014 Daily Inter Lake)

[5] MDT Discussing NW Montana Options for New Megaload Shipments (April 4, 2014 KPAX)

[6] Megaloads” Heading to Great Falls (April 5, 2014 KRTV)

[7] Megaloads Are a Real Big Problem (April 12, 2014 Daily Inter Lake editorial board)

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

[9] The Festival at Sandpoint (The Festival at Sandpoint)

[10] ITD Highway 95 & 200 Megaload Public Records 7-31-14 (July 31, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide)

[11] Jumper Bridge (Bigge Crane and Rigging Company) (photo)

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