Lake Bridge Comment Period, Moscow WIRT Meeting & Film, Seventh WIRT Celebration


February 26: BNSF Lake Bridge Permit Application Release

On Monday, February 26, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) released for mere, 30-day, public review Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway’s (BNSF) joint application to construct a “2.2-mile-long, second, mainline track west of the existing, BNSF mainline, to connect the North Algoma Siding track (MP 5.1) south of Sandpoint, to the Sandpoint Junction switch (MP 2.9), where the BNSF and the Montana Rail Link (MRL) mainlines converge in Sandpoint…[The] applicant proposes to start construction in the fall of 2018.  The permit would authorize construction for a period of five years,” including rail bridges over Sand Creek and almost one mile over Lake Pend Oreille [1].

The City of Sandpoint, bigger green, organizational partners, coal/oil train/terminal opposition network, local, #No2ndBridge group, Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT), and allied activists are coordinating responses and will send comment suggestions soon, continuing frontline, second BNSF lake bridge vigilance and resistance commenced in August 2014.  “The second rail bridge is likely to be a contentious proposal within Sandpoint.  BNSF officials say the second bridge will help alleviate wait times caused by rail traffic in town.  However, with train traffic estimated to double in the area by 2035, Sandpoint officials and conservation activists worry the convenience carries a higher risk of a disastrous accident.” [2]  “The bridge proposal has drawn the opposition of Wild Idaho Rising Tide, which contends the span will ultimately exacerbate climate change, because it will facilitate the trade of domestic coal and oil products.” [3]  Although the “Port of Vancouver and Vancouver Energy, which wanted to build the nation’s largest rail-to-marine, oil terminal at the port, mutually agreed to end the company’s lease on Wednesday, [February 28,] a month early,” “an estimated 58 trains use the BNSF rail line per day.  It’s expected by 2035, that number will increase to 114 trains daily, according to a [Spokane] city report.” [4, 5]

Before sending your more thorough, written comments addressing the application for and myriad impacts of this expansion of the Northwest pipeline-on-wheels over the fifth deepest U.S. lake, please demand from the Army Corps and IDL a comment period extension of 90 days, public hearings, and a full environmental impact statement.  Alongside diverse, citizen stakeholders, many indigenous, federal, and state agencies involved in or affected by this decision (U.S Army Corps of Engineers, Coast Guard, and Fish and Wildlife Service, Idaho departments of Environmental Quality, Historic Preservation, Lands, and Water Resources, and the Coeur d’Alene, Kalispel, Kootenai, Salish, and Spokane tribes) require additional opportunities, time, and documentation to responsibly share information and analyze this largest construction project in decades on and near Lake Pend Oreille and the hundreds of pages of the BNSF application [6].

The decision whether to issue a permit will be based on an evaluation of the probable impact, including cumulative impacts, of the proposed activity on the public interest.  This decision will reflect the national concern for both protection and utilization of important resources…Comments are used in the preparation of an environmental assessment [the current, inadequate, Army Corps choice] and/or an environmental impact statement, pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act.  Comments are also used to determine the need for a public hearing, and to determine the overall public interest in the proposed activity.

…Any person may request in writing, within the comment period specified in this notice, that a public hearing is held to consider this proposed activity.  Requests for a public hearing shall state specific reasons for holding a public hearing.  A request may be denied if substantive reasons for holding a hearing are not provided or if there is otherwise no valid interest to be served.

…Interested parties are invited to provide comments on the proposed activity, which will become a part of the record and will be considered in the final decision.  Please mail all comments to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Walla Walla District, Attn: Shane Slate, Coeur d’Alene Regulatory Office, 1910 Northwest Boulevard, Suite 210, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho 83814-2676, or email NWW_BNSF_Pendoreille@usace.army.mil.  Comments should be received no later than the comment due date of March 28, 2018, as indicated on this notice, to receive consideration. [1]

Issuing a separate, public notice, the Idaho Department of Lands is also holding a public comment period on the proposed project and associated materials, ending on March 30, 2018 [7].  Send your message encouraging BNSF permit denial to comments@idl.idaho.gov or through the IDL website.  Citizens can also share their concerns with the U.S Coast Guard, charged with issuing or denying permits for bridges and causeways in or over navigable waters of the United States, and overseeing compliance with National Historic Preservation Act and Endangered Species Act consultation, for the proposed bridge projects over Sand Creek and Lake Pend Oreille.  But the Army Corps and Coast Guard cannot grant permits until the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (IDEQ) evaluates whether to issue, waive, or deny Clean Water Act water quality certification for discharge of project dredge and fill material, within 60 days or, by IDEQ-requested extension, longer.  Please see the Army Corps public notice about this project, for pertinent agency contact information [1].

Besides contributing written comments, and hopefully oral testimony, toward the lopsided and thus oppressive, power dynamics of these “public participation processes,” WIRT and regional allies are planning public information sessions, targeted protests, and a summer, #No2ndBridge, direct action camp, to catalyze further resistance to this industrial invasion of crucial, home waters and wetlands.

March 7: Moscow WIRT Meeting & Film Screening

Invite your friends and families and join the regional, climate activist community and WIRT activists at 7 pm on Wednesday, March 7, at The Attic, up the back stairs of 314 East Second Street in Moscow, Idaho, for ongoing conversations and actions opposing Northwest, fossil fuel extraction, waste injection wells, transportation, train derailments, Lake Pend Oreille rail bridge and area track expansions, and the Newport silicon smelter.  Offering potluck food and beverages and welcoming your ideas and input, we intend to explore connections among participants and campaigns, share current, issue updates and background, and create strategies and tactics in support and solidarity with the movement against extreme fossil fuels and for clean energy and livable communities.  See the January and February, Moscow and Sandpoint, meeting alerts on the WIRT website, for other, possible topics of discussion (dirty energy protesting, monitoring, and reporting and direct action training, mobilizing, and fundraising), and contact WIRT via email or phone, with your questions and suggestions.

For WIRT’s first-Wednesday monthly, March 2018, Moscow gathering, we will screen Momenta, a 42-minute documentary released in Bellingham in June 2014, which describes the first years of the Northwest movement dedicated “to educating, raising awareness, and activating communities to stop all proposed coal exports,…rethink fossil fuels [and] their impacts on climate and environment, and accelerate the clean energy revolution” [8].  We will also present the trailer for the upcoming documentary Choke Point, the story of the “Inland Northwest’s fight against exploding oil trains and fossil fuels,” produced by grassroots, Spokane videographers Rosie Ennis and Joe Comine of Dancing Crow Media, who need your donations for their ongoing work [9].  Choke Point “is about trains transporting coal and highly combustible crude from the Bakken oil fields, through the area between Sandpoint, Idaho, and Cheney, Washington, known as the ‘choke point.’  These trains travel over our aquifer and water resources, across unstable infrastructure, and through the heart of our home,…[and] tend to blow up when there’s a derailment or due to equipment failure.”  The completed film could include excerpts, which we will share, of talks by Spokane City Council president Ben Stuckart, Sightline Institute policy director Eric de Place, Spokane tribal activist Twa-le Abrahamson, and Railroad Workers United organizer Jen Wallis, recorded at the June 2015 Coal Exports, Oil Transport, and Solutions Forum, held at Gonzaga University in Spokane.

March 30 & 31: Seventh Annual Celebration of WIRT

WIRT activists are planning two benefit concerts with several performers, as part of the Seventh Annual Celebration of Wild Idaho Rising Tide, on our anniversary weekend at already reserved venues: Friday, March 30, in the 1912 Center Great Room in Moscow, and Saturday, March 31, at the Little Panida Theater in Sandpoint [10].  We welcome your participation as a volunteer or performer and/or your suggestions of musicians and bands who could play one or both of these public, evening events also featuring beer and wine, potluck food or concession snacks, and a background, WIRT slide show, all raising funds for our regional, fossil fuel-fighting, climate activist collective.

John Firshi will open the celebrations with his amazing music in Moscow and Sandpoint.  We are also seeking an enthusiastic, danceable, headliner band (or two) to further stir up the resistance community against railroad and oil and gas companies threatening clean air and water, by drilling wells next to the Payette River, planning earthquake-prone, waste injection wells through aquifers, and expanding tracks and bridges for the Northwest pipeline-on-wheels across north Idaho.

Performers from the inland Northwest and beyond who have played past WIRT Celebrations include Armed and Dangerous, Ben Walden, Blackkiss (Utah), Corn Mash, Dan Maher, Fiddlin’ Big Al, Food Water Shelter, Henry C and the Willards, Ivy Ross Ricci, Jeanne McHale, Kelly Emo, Landrace, Matti Sand, Moscow Volunteer Peace Band, Mother Yeti, Sharon Cousins and Josh Yeidel, The Beat Diggers, and Tom Bennett (Utah) [11].

WIRT could provide meager travel funds and on-site food and beverages for musicians sharing their admired music.  For further information and to talk about arrangements, contact WIRT at 208-301-8039 or wild.idaho.rising.tide@gmail.com.

Thanks for your ongoing activism!

[1] Public Notices NWW-2007-01303, February 26, 2018 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

[2] BNSF Applies for Permit for Second Rail Bridge over Lake, March 1, 2018 Sandpoint Reader

[3] Permits Submitted for Second BNSF Bridge, March 1, 2018 Bonner County Daily Bee

[4] Vancouver Port Commission Moves to End Oil Terminal Lease Immediately, February 27, 2018 Columbian

[5] BNSF to Double Track on Line Linking Spokane Valley to Hauser, Idaho, February 26, 2018 Spokesman-Review

[6] BNSF Sandpoint Junction Connector Joint Application for Permits, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway

[7] BNSF Application, Idaho Department of Lands

[8] Momenta – Full Film, Plus M Productions and Protect Our Winters

[9] Choke Point (in Production for 2018) & COIL Forum, June 23 at Gonzaga University, Dancing Crow Media

[10] March 30, 2018: WIRT Anniversary Party, 1912 Center

[11] Search Results for “Annual Celebrat”, Wild Idaho Rising Tide

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2 thoughts on “Lake Bridge Comment Period, Moscow WIRT Meeting & Film, Seventh WIRT Celebration

  1. Pingback: May 2 PRDC & WIRT Moscow Meetings, #No2ndBridge Updates | Wild Idaho Rising Tide

  2. Pingback: May 23 #No2ndBridge Hearings & Rally | Wild Idaho Rising Tide

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