Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) and allied activists, friends, and supporters invite and heartily welcome your input and involvement during an upcoming weekend of opportunities to discuss, train for, and stage resistance to the fossil fuels and railroad industry degraders of basic, global, human, environmental, and climate health and rights. Interior Northwest residents are coordinating and co-hosting fifth annual, Panhandle Paddle activities, to unite against regional trains hauling volatile Alberta tar sands, fracked Bakken crude oil, dusty Powder River Basin coal, and other hazardous materials, and to oppose Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway’s planned bridge and track construction across downtown Sandpoint, Bridge Street, Sand Creek, and Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho . We have chosen to maintain the yearly date and autonomy of Panhandle Paddle confrontations of government-rubberstamped, corporate transportation and infrastructure projects, separate from the massive, government-oriented bandwagon of September 20 and later, international, climate emergency strikes that divert and rely on local efforts to succeed, but rarely reciprocate such support .
Fossil fuel infrastructure use, expansion, and deterioration along and over inland Northwest waterways recklessly endanger air, water, climate, lands, lives, and communities, with the ongoing, increasing pollution and risks of coal and diesel emissions and catastrophic train wrecks, spills, fires, and explosions occurring weekly throughout the country. Within eight months after a derailed oil train fire and spill jeopardized a nearby school, water treatment plant, and the Columbia River, in the small, scenic town of Mosier, Oregon, BNSF, Montana Rail Link, and Union Pacific imposed seven north Idaho and northwest Montana train derailments and collisions within 44 miles of Sandpoint in seven 2017 months, involving two grain and two coal trains, two vehicles with four teenagers, one dog, and two deaths [3, 4]. While WIRT directly confronted and documented BNSF’s preliminary, pile load testing for a second lake rail bridge at Dog Beach Park near Sandpoint, between May and September 2017, area railroad accidents culminated in the mid-August, wrecked train dump of tens of thousands of tons of coal into the Clark Fork-Pend Oreille watershed near Heron, Montana, upstream of river and lake drinking water sources . Fully laden, flammable, crude oil and hazardous materials trains frequented the tracks surrounded by deep mounds of wreckage and spontaneously combusting, smoldering coal, which remained unremedied during five weeks of an unusually smoky wildfire season.
Since August 2014, when BNSF first proclaimed bridge expansion, and September 2015, when its plans dropped along with the price of oil, WIRT and #No2ndBridge activists have been preparing for a worst case scenario in north Idaho, as we await decisions by the U.S. Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers on BNSF’s still federally unpermitted, fossil fuels pipeline-on-rails bridge expansion through Sandpoint and almost one mile over Idaho’s largest, deepest lake, Pend Oreille [6-8]. For now, we are scheming legal maneuvers and planning regional marches in rapid response to these agency announcements, after the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality issued an uncontested, water quality certification in September 2018, and railroad and state attorney general lawyers convinced a Moscow judge to dismiss our expensive, underdog, district court case against a June 2018, Idaho Department of Lands, encroachment permit for BNSF’s Sandpoint Junction Connector Project, in March 2019 [9, 10]. Among myriad, significant, immitigable, cumulative impacts to the environmental and public health and safety of north Idaho, BNSF’s $100 million gamble would drive over 1000 piles into regional drinking water, threatened bull trout critical habitat, train-spewed coal deposits, and the natural amenities foundation of the Sandpoint area tourism and recreation economy, for second (and likely third), parallel, railroad bridges and temporary work spans facilitating riskier, more derailment-vulnerable, bi-directional train traffic . Meanwhile, on the downtown Sandpoint, fossil fuels frontline, WIRT continues to daily document, for the #IDoiltrainwatch, #WAoiltrainwatch, and Portland tar sands opponents, every westbound, BNSF, unit train of dangerous, black tanker, and coal cars moving toward disasters waiting to happen in Lake Pend Oreille and downstream.
As the #No2ndBridge situation intensifies, we are reaching out to you, our regional network comrades, to share direct action skills and ask you to join with north Idaho, rail line communities in the crosshairs of the coal, oil, and railroad industries, to resist fossil-fueled climate change through these annual, Panhandle Paddle events on Friday through Sunday, September 6 to 8, in Sandpoint. We would appreciate your participation in the talk, workshop, and paddle, your RSVP of your intentions for spots in kayaks, canoes, carpools, and camps, and your help with publicizing these free events, by sharing this event description, and printing and posting the color, letter-sized, PDF version of the WIRT website-linked Fifth Panhandle Paddle Flyer. Continue reading