Sixth Panhandle Paddle


Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) and allied activists, friends, and supporters heartily welcome your participation in the upcoming, Sixth Panhandle Paddle weekend of opportunities to discuss, train for, and stage resistance to the fossil fuels and railroad industry degraders of human rights, environmental health, and the global climate.  Interior Northwest residents are coordinating and co-hosting annual activities in Sandpoint, Idaho, to unite in opposition to regional coal, oil, and tar sands trains, terminals, and derailments and Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway’s commenced, #No2ndBridge, track and bridge construction across downtown Sandpoint, Sand Creek, and Lake Pend Oreille.  Amid the intensifying situations of north Idaho railroad expansion, federal and media criminalization of dissenters, private militia invasions of Black Lives Matter protests, and COVID-19 health and economic disasters during the last year, we are reaching out to you, our regional network comrades, to share direct action skills and invite you to join with rail line communities, to protest fossil-fueled climate change via these free events on Friday through Sunday, September 18 to 20.  We would appreciate your involvement in the talk, workshop, and paddle, your RSVP of your intentions for spots in kayaks, canoes, and carpools, and your assistance with distributing this event description and printing and posting the color, PDF version of the WIRT website-linked Sixth Panhandle Paddle Flyer 2.

#No2ndBridge Talk

4 to 6 pm Friday, September 18

Gardenia Center, Sandpoint

At this informal discussion, participants can exchange issue information, expand knowledge, and brainstorm strategies and tactics for creatively engaging and catalyzing further community resistance and regulatory and legal recourse to BNSF’s Sandpoint Junction Connector project and railroad infrastructure, pollution, and risks in the Lake Pend Oreille area and beyond, which activists have denounced and challenged during each of the Panhandle Paddles [1-5].  Please bring ideas about campaign organizing and railroad monitoring and protesting, and gather at 4 pm on Friday, September 18, at the Gardenia Center, 400 Church Street in Sandpoint.  After the Friday and Saturday meetings, we plan to broaden coalitions and camaraderie among activists, while continuing conversations and enjoying music outside nearby pubs.

Direct Action Training

2 to 5 pm Saturday, September 19

Gardenia Center, Sandpoint

Regional climate and environmental activists and water protectors will provide several, interactive, training workshops, through talks and videos sharing frontline skills, stories, and insights.  Advocating grassroots, direct actions at the sites of environmental destruction, more than participation in expensive, ineffective, legal systems and other government processes, trainers will offer their expertise through three one-hour presentation and practice sessions on topics such as knowing your rights, strategizing and tactical thinking, affinity group dynamics, target selection and scouting, action design, roles, and documentation, media communications, police interactions, de-escalation, security, safety, and self-defense,  and jail solidarity.  The number, topics, and lengths of training sessions have varied over the years, chosen by and adapted to rural participants and supporting various ecological and social justice movements within current, U.S., political contexts.  Prior speakers have given advice on road and railroad actions, digital security, pipeline blockades, grand jury resistance, know-your-rights, and the previously mentioned subjects.  Organizers holding these trainings anticipate reciprocally learning and strengthening the volunteer activism gaining momentum in the Idaho Panhandle.  We encourage everyone who plans to attend to RSVP in advance and request particular topics and further logistical information.  Join WIRT and guests anytime between 2 and 5 pm on Saturday, September 19, at the Gardenia Center, 400 Church Street in Sandpoint.

Panhandle Paddle

11 am to 1 pm Sunday, September 20

City and Dog Beach Parks, Sandpoint

For a sixth year, WIRT and allied activists are bringing their boats, bodies, and bravery to two locations, for on- and off-shore protests of Northwest coal, oil, and tar sands trains, terminals, and derailments and north Idaho, railroad bridge and track expansion.  To accommodate participants who are renting single or double kayaks, paddleboards, or other manual watercraft from Sandpoint businesses that open at 10 am, activists are meeting an hour later, at 11 am on Sunday, September 20.  Near the south boat ramp at City Beach Park in Sandpoint, we will launch a flotilla on Lake Pend Oreille, departing after participants arrive by land and water, to voyage around present and proposed railroad bridge sites.  By about 12 noon on Sunday, another rally will converge after paddlers reach Dog Beach Park south of Sandpoint.  Bring large, attractive banners and signs, visible to observers at great distances, and respond to WIRT with your boat rental intentions and mobility needs, so we can reserve and cover the costs of watercraft, and arrange transportation for folks who cannot walk to Dog Beach Park.

Event & #No2ndBridge Support

Can you contribute toward kayak rental fees or offer boats or supplies for this event?  Could you drive enthusiastic, Panhandle Paddle participants to Sandpoint, or help with event publicity and travel expenses?  Can your group or organization endorse and/or co-sponsor this demonstration of people power?  To bolster this collective event, please offer assistance and materials in-person, online, by mail, or through the Donate to WIRT button [6].  Visit the WIRT facebook and website pages, and contact WIRT via phone, text, email, facebook, or website, with your questions and suggestions and for further background and event information.  We eagerly anticipate sharing these actions with you and your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers, on Friday through Sunday, September 18 to 20, grateful that regional community members are actively opposing massive, corporate, dirty energy infrastructure and transportation projects.

Issue Background

Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway hauls about a half-dozen, daily, loaded, unit trains of dusty Powder River Basin coal to Boardman, Oregon, and Centralia, Washington, coal-fired power plants and a Vancouver, British Columbia (B.C.) area, export terminal, and volatile Alberta tar sands, fracked Bakken crude oil, and other hazardous materials to West Coast refineries and international ports from B.C. to California.  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 twice daily throughout the country.

Within 15 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 (MRL), and Union Pacific (UP) imposed six north Idaho and northwest Montana train derailments and collisions within 44 miles of Sandpoint, during seven 2017 months.  Trains struck two vehicles with four teenagers, killing one, in Post Falls and Rathdrum in February and April; a grain train slid down a mountainside toward a dam above Moyie Springs in March; an empty coal train jumped the tracks close to homes in Ponderay and Kootenai two days later in March; and a corn train derailed and dented U.S. Highway 95 near a historically significant barn in Cocolalla, on the same May day as BNSF first brought cranes and machinery for test pile driving, to its #No2ndBridge site near Sandpoint [7, 8].  While WIRT directly confronted and documented BNSF’s preliminary, pile load testing for a second lake rail bridge at Dog Beach Park, between May and September, 2017 railroad damages and deaths culminated in the mid-August, wrecked train dump of 7,000 pounds of coal into the Clark Fork River near Heron, Montana, upstream of Pend Oreille lake and river drinking water sources [9].  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 [10].

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 and regional emergency responders have been preparing for a worst case scenario in north Idaho, as bully BNSF never fails to inflict ever more destructive havoc on rural communities [11-13].  After its January 1, 2020, derailment of a mixed freight train into the Kootenai River east of Bonners Ferry, BNSF deserted its submerged, lead locomotive for a month, as it leaked 2,000 gallons of diesel fuel into an international watershed.  Crews then dragged (“floated”) the half-million-pound engine across the river habitat of three endangered fish species, and dismantled and removed it on a river bar.  The fiasco that drew more co-opted, local praise for crew rescue than concern for a violated river serves as another of myriad examples of BNSF, MRL, and UP dismissal and abuse of public and environmental health and safety in their north Idaho, industrial, sacrifice zone [14-16].  Unabated by Northwest citizen outcries and conservation and climate group lawsuits, BNSF assaults on the Clark Fork-Pend Oreille watershed, which provides over 40 percent of the fresh water in the Columbia River Basin, have escalated with construction of doubled tracks across north Idaho, three new railroad bridges as part of its keystone, Sandpoint Junction Connector project, and other additional infrastructure that together accommodate the constant emissions and risks of coal and diesel dust and fossil fuels and hazardous freight derailments.

Decisions in 2018 and 2019 by the U.S. Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers and Idaho departments of Environmental Quality (IDEQ) and Lands (IDL) permitted BNSF’s fossil fuels pipeline-on-rails bridge expansion through Sandpoint and almost one mile over Idaho’s largest, deepest lake, Pend Oreille.  In March 2019, railroad and state attorney general lawyers convinced a Moscow judge to dismiss WIRT’s expensive, underdog, district court case against an IDL encroachment permit for the project [17, 18].  Among countless, significant, cumulative impacts to  the environmental and community health and safety of north Idaho, BNSF’s $100 million, construction gamble would drive over 1000 piles into regional drinking water, threatened bull trout critical habitat, train-spewed coal and other pollution deposits, and the natural amenities foundation of the Sandpoint area tourism and recreation economy, for second (and likely, later third) parallel, railroad bridges and temporary work spans facilitating riskier, more derailment-vulnerable, bi-directional train traffic  [19].  Besides daily, WIRT vigilance and documentation of every westbound, BNSF, unit train of dangerous, black tanker and coal cars moving toward disasters waiting to happen on Sandpoint, Lake Pend Oreille, and downstream, fossil fuels frontlines, we have been investigating, recording, and photographing numerous, BNSF project, document and construction site snafus since May 2017, as we scheme ongoing information releases and legal maneuvers, in response to predictable, blatant, BNSF disregard for the integrity of north Idaho environments and economies.  Please join us in resistance to railroaded fossil fuels and resulting climate chaos!

[1] Panhandle Paddle! August 21, 2015 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[2] Totem Poles and Kayaks Against Fossil Fuels: Second Panhandle Paddle, August 22, 2016 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[3] Third Panhandle Paddle, August 19, 2017 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[4] Fourth Panhandle Paddle, September 3, 2018 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[5] Fifth Panhandle Paddle, August 28, 2019 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[6] Donate to WIRT, Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[7] Sandpoint and Spokane Stand with Mosier, May 29, 2017 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[8] Seventh, Area, Train Accident in Six Months! July 24, 2017 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[9] On Sunday night, August 13, 2017…, August 22, 2019 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[10] At 3:22 pm on Monday, August 21, a few hours after a continent-wide, solar eclipse…, August 21, 2017 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[11] BNSF Plans Second Bridge over Idaho Chokepoint, August 27, 2014 Railway Age

[12] Plans for Second Rail Bridge across Lake Pend Oreille Put on Hold, September 16, 2015 Spokesman-Review

[13] Herb Goodwin at the Sandpoint Blessing (Lummi Totem Pole Journey 2016), August 28, 2016 New American Underground

[14] BNSF Locomotives in River, USCAN and WIRT Meetings, #No2ndBridge Petition, Frontline Support, January 13, 2020 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[15] Fossil Fuels Train Pollution Protest, January 27, 2020 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[16] Fossil Fuels Train Pollution Protest Report, February 8, 2020 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[17] BNSF Bridges EIS or EA March! May 31, 2019 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[18] Category Archives: BNSF Bridges, Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[19] Petition to Deny and Revoke Permits for the BNSF Sandpoint Junction Connector Project, September 30, 2018 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

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