PRDC, WIRT, & Sandpoint Council Meetings, #No2ndBridge Updates, Regional Railroad Snafus


PRDC ANNUAL MEETING

Join Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition (PRDC) members and the current board at the annual, membership meeting on Wednesday, November 6, at the Yellow House next to the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Palouse, 420 East Second Street, near Van Buren Street in Moscow, Idaho. Please visit anytime between 5 and 7:30 pm, to enjoy hors d’oeuvres and drinks, talk with and vote on the board of directors for the coming year, continue support with $5 annual dues and greater donations, and learn and ask questions about the PRDC campaign against the Idaho Transportation Department’s plan for relocation and four-lane expansion of U.S. Highway 95 over the shoulder of Paradise Ridge (alternative E-2, which is not a “done deal”).  As an organizational member of PRDC, Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) encourages you to see the PRDC website and attached event flyer for further information, contact PRDC if you are interested in serving on the board (secretary@paradise-ridge-defense.org or 208-301-0202), attend this worthwhile gathering, and send tax-deductible contributions to this 501(c)(3) non-profit organization at P.O. Box 8804, Moscow, ID 83843 [1].  We hope to see you at PRDC’s annual, membership meeting!

SANDPOINT LETTER TO COAST GUARD

The City of Sandpoint is drafting a letter to the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), requesting an environmental impact statement (EIS) and reconsideration of USCG’s September 5, 2019, final environmental assessment (EA) and appendices and finding of no significant impact (FONSI) for Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway’s Sandpoint Junction Connector Project — proposed construction of two permanent, parallel, rail bridges and two temporary, work spans across Lake Pend Oreille and Sand Creek, during three to five years. This lead, federal agency regulating the project that would also build a second rail structure over Bridge Street has provided neither an administrative appeal process nor an optional, 30-day, public comment period for its final decision.  As offered by WIRT and requested by the Sandpoint city clerk in early October, we compiled information and supplied documents and recommendations, to support the formal, but only symbolic, city letter for the Coast Guard record [2, 3].

In response to our October 31 inquiry ascertaining progress on the proposed letter and the Sandpoint City Council resolution adopting it, the city clerk graciously sent to us both files and the city’s March 2019 comments to the Coast Guard and May 2018 resolution requesting an EIS, which would accompany the city’s correspondence with USCG [4]. Please show your appreciation of city officials and staff upholding their constituents’ interests, by attending and encouraging your associates to participate in upcoming, regular, council sessions considering the BNSF EIS/EA issue, between 5:30 and 7:30 pm on Wednesdays, November 6 and 20, in Sandpoint City Hall council chambers at 1123 Lake Street.  Also see the meeting agendas and watch the recorded, video livestream of council and public deliberations [5].

NOVEMBER WIRT MEETINGS

While under siege by reckless development and resister repression, volunteer, grassroots, WIRT organizers would greatly appreciate your efforts in arranging upcoming presentations, training workshops, demonstrations, outreach, and #No2ndBridge litigation. We urge you to participate in November 2019, potluck gatherings, enjoy climate action documentaries, talk about tactics and strategies, and offer your unique advice and assistance, as we together relentlessly confront the fossil fuel causes of climate change, through direct resistance and frontline solutions.  The WIRT, climate activist collective welcomes opportunities to talk with you about critical issues, and to share images, dispatches, and actions with the regional, environmental, and indigenous community, while we continue our grueling opposition and vigil on the north Idaho, fossil fuels pipeline-on-rails, and #No2ndBridge frontline.

Join activity-planning conversations on the first and third Thursdays (now instead of Wednesdays) of every month, starting at 6 pm (not the usual 7 pm) on Thursday, November 7, at The Attic, up the back stairs of 314 East Second Street in Moscow, and on Thursday, November 21, at the Gardenia Center, 400 Church Street in Sandpoint [3]. Meanwhile, please check WIRT website and especially facebook pages for posts and pictures, and listen to WIRT’s weekly, Climate Justice Forum radio program, for updates about recent, ongoing, and emerging, Northwest and continent-wide, fossil fuel infrastructure invasions and protests, and share this information among your associates and contacts.

#NO2NDBRIDGE UPDATES

Attorney Search

WIRT has been talking with allies, attorneys, and government officials about BNSF’s Sandpoint Junction Connector Project document and process discrepancies, and determining whether the Coast Guard’s final EA and FONSI sufficiently comply with relevant laws. Meanwhile, we have been witnessing massive, ongoing construction without all permits for BNSF’s bridge and track expansion, enduring noise- and dust-spewing, downtown Sandpoint, street reconstruction outside the WIRT office, dismissing criminalization attempts by released, federal investigation files and international media articles, and observing and reporting water-polluting, disaster-risking, westbound, BNSF, unit trains of coal and black tanker (presumably oil) trains, for the #IDoiltrainwatch and #WAoiltrainwatch, all while continuing regional outreach via various modes, to WIRT’s 3,200-plus contacts and beyond [3].

Filing a federal case against the final EA and FONSI offers the only remaining, legal recourse, besides direct action opportunities, for climate activist and environmental protection groups to slow and/or stop BNSF’s further invasion of Lake Pend Oreille. During recent, WIRT endeavors to invite the issue involvement of dozens of Northwest lawyers, a local attorney urged us to contact the Sandpoint office of Idaho Conservation League (ICL), which is currently exploring similar litigation with a Spokane attorney [6].  So we requested an ICL update and suggestions of ways to coordinate our parallel pursuits, but have not received a response.

Apparent in the permit applications and procedures for this controversial project, BNSF’s and state and federal, rubberstamping agencies’ purposeful snafus, blatant errors, unresolved issues, and legal deficiencies are myriad. In a recent, public post, WIRT provides a few examples of industry and agency negligence taunting litigation to enforce EIS analyses [7].  We welcome conversations discussing further, BNSF and regulator improprieties and illegalities.  Although WIRT is still suffering the loss of a half-year of minimum wages ($7,500), to cover $15K in attorney fees for our 2018-19, dismissed, district court lawsuit against a state permit for the BNSF proposal, we ask that you share your recommendations and referrals of attorneys who could challenge BNSF’s north Idaho expansion venture.

Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper Loss

The #No2ndBridge campaign has been extremely difficult for local residents and volunteer, WIRT activists, as bigger, green groups like Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper (LPOW) and ICL have controlled and suppressed the issue, and WIRT has wondered if they have ever intended true, frontline resistance to BNSF track and bridges expansion across Sandpoint and Lake Pend Oreille. We are stunned to learn that the LPOW board has terminated its $90K per year executive director, Sandpoint City Council president Shannon Williamson, during her mayoral candidacy campaign [8].  But we are grateful to everyone who has shared their observations about the situation, mentioning WIRT’s BNSF Bridges Coast Guard EA Protest (the necessarily hijacked climate strike) and lack of inter-group coordination and interaction in Sandpoint around the #No2ndBridge issue.  If community members had not articulated their perspectives and fellow, WIRT, board members had not encouraged similar, WIRT expressions, we would have likely continued to endure several more years of poor treatment by other community organizations, who disregard our BNSF concerns and direct activism.  As an indigenous, WIRT activist says, “This has been a long, hard road for us.  Maybe this will bring the change we need.”  Thanks to regional colleagues for lifting the weight of peer oppression off WIRT efforts to halt this BNSF fiasco!  Onward: #No2ndBridge!

Construction Site Vigilance

In the beautiful, fading sunlight of the evenings of October 22 and 31, WIRT observed and documented the #No2ndBridge frontline, saw BNSF contracted workers digging a hole to climate hell, for fossil fuels pipelines-on-rails, and relieved some fears and tears among Dog Beach Park trees and Lake Pend Oreille waters. We will soon post scores of photos of October 2019, BNSF track expansion, augmenting September 2019, photographic evidence of project malfeasance opposed by WIRT and regional allies [9-15].

REGIONAL RAILROAD SNAFUS

Before 3 pm on Friday afternoon, October 25, a person reported a red liquid leaking from a BNSF rail car on a railroad spur line that remains closed to traffic, at Kemira Water Solutions in Spokane Valley, Washington [16, 17]. About 6,500 gallons of a hazardous substance, later identified as corrosive ferric chloride, spilled for at least 30 minutes into a terrain sump less than 1,200 feet from the Spokane River, after a valve or pipe cracked during routine, water treatment chemical transfer.  A private, cleanup team initially responded, Spokane Valley fire crews arrived, and Kemira notified the state Department of Ecology for follow-up on the incident that closed an adjacent Union Pacific rail line for three hours.  WIRT activists wonder how close to near-disaster the ferric chloride rail car lurked, as it crossed the present (and proposed!), almost mile-long, BNSF train bridge over Lake Pend Oreille.

Within 20 hours and 30 miles, at about 11:30 am on Saturday, October 26, near Cheney Plaza Road and Alki Street in Cheney, Washington, one of two BNSF locomotives of a freight train, hauling 14,000 tons of soybeans, failed and caught fire, closing two nearby, main roads until around 3:45 pm [17]. Responding, railroad crews and Spokane County and Cheney firefighters disconnected and moved the other engine, disabled the blazing locomotive’s power, and doused the flames with water and foam, without injuries, and BNSF brought in another engine.  During five years of monitoring Sandpoint, fossil fuel trains, WIRT has documented numerous, visibly, previously damaged, BNSF locomotives.  Please see the linked map for both incident locations [17].

A backhoe and uninjured operator overturned into water next to train tracks near Dover, Idaho, on Wednesday morning, October 30, leaking oil and hydraulic fluid into downstream areas of the Pend Oreille River [18]. The responding, Selkirk Fire Station 2 crew applied generally ineffective, floating, absorbent boom, and Clyde’s Towing worked for several hours to upright and remove the heavy equipment.  The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality should be monitoring the spill, but Selkirk staff said that they are watching it over the next few days.

During 110-plus years, BNSF has been rolling one dice of when (not if) it inflicts a railroad bridge derailment and/or spill on Columbia Basin waters, and now it wants a second dice. How many more #No2ndBridge warnings do bureaucratic decision makers and this train transporter of toxic coal, oil, and other hazardous materials over Lake Pend Oreille need, to stop their railroad expansion scheme?

SUPPORT WIRT!

Please consider contributing physically as a volunteer and/or fiscally as a funding supporter of WIRT campaigns confronting the fossil fuel sources of climate change, via mail to our Sandpoint and Moscow addresses, or online through our website Donate to WIRT button [19]. Thanks!

[1] Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition

[2] City of Sandpoint Letter to U.S. Coast Guard Requesting EIS on Proposed Construction of Railroad Bridges, October 15, 2019 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[3] Sandpoint Meetings, Lake Railroad Pollution, Bridges Resistance, and Construction, October 17, 2019 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[4] Sandpoint Letter to Coast Guard, November 5, 2019 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[5] Meeting Agendas: City Council Meeting, November 4, 2019 City of Sandpoint

[6] Boo, BNSF Railway contracted workers digging a hole to climate hell…, November 1, 2019 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[7] Please Share with Those Who Can Help: Attorney Needed to Challenge BNSF Railway North Idaho Bridges Expansion, November 1, 2019 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[8] WIRT is attempting to finish posting photos of BNSF #No2ndBridge construction…, November 3, 2019 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[9] BNSF Bridges Sites Fall 2019: September 9, September 10, 2019 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[10] BNSF Bridges Sites Fall 2019: September 12, September 13, 2019 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[11] BNSF Bridges Sites Fall 2019: September 22, September 23, 2019 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[12] BNSF Bridges Sites Fall 2019: October 6 and 7, October 8, 2019 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[13] BNSF Bridges Sites Fall 2019: October 11, October 12, 2019 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[14] BNSF Bridges Sites Fall 2019: October 22, October 23, 2019 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[15] BNSF Bridges Sites Fall 2019: October 31, November 1, 2019 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[16] #No2ndBridge for toxic coal, oil, and other hazardous materials…, October 26, 2019 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[17] Two Railroad Snafus Within 20 Hours and 30 Miles! October 27, 2019 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[18] How many #No2ndBridge warnings do we need…, October 30, 2019 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[19] Donate to WIRT, Wild Idaho Rising Tide Everbutton

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