Weekend, WIRT & Allied Events


Regional, climate activist collective Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) gratefully requests your participation in these weekend events and ongoing issues.

Friday & Saturday, October 4-5: Moscow WIRT Meeting & Tabling

Volunteer, grassroots, WIRT organizers would greatly appreciate your help in arranging upcoming presentations, training workshops, demonstrations, and #No2ndBridge litigation, and reaching out to allies, attorneys, and our regional network.  So we encourage you to participate in October 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.  Starting in October 2019, we are meeting on the first and third Thursday (instead of Wednesday) of every month, except this week on Friday in Moscow.  Activity-planning conversations begin at 6 pm (not the usual 7 pm) on Friday, October 4, at The Attic, up the back stairs of 314 East Second Street in Moscow, and on Thursday, October 17, at the Gardenia Center, 400 Church Street in Sandpoint.

We also hope to talk with you about critical issues, at the Farmers Market outreach tables hosted by Palouse Environmental Sustainability Coalition (PESC) and WIRT, at Friendship Square in Moscow on Saturday, October 5, and near Farmin Park in Sandpoint throughout the rest of the season.  Please check WIRT website and especially facebook pages for posts since September 21, on recent and ongoing, regional, climate strikes and #No2ndBridge protests, and share this information among your associates and contacts [1, 2].  We anticipate forthcoming, WIRT newsletters on railroad bridge expansion document deficiencies, Treasure Valley oil and gas hearings, lawsuits, and driller bankruptcy, and released, federal investigation files on local, fossil fuels opponents.

Sunday, October 6: A Vigil for the Healing of the Earth

The Silver Valley Community Resource Center and tribal and faith leaders, social/environmental justice groups, and elected officials of eastern Washington and north Idaho invite everyone to a gathering from 3 to 5 pm on Sunday, October 6, at Coeur d’Alene’s Old Mission State Park, 31732 South Mission Road, at Exit 39 off Interstate 90 in Cataldo, Idaho.  Thousands of regional residents have voiced opposition to the toxic waste site at the Old Mission at Cataldo.  Many concerned citizens within the Bunker Hill Superfund site support establishment of a community lead health clinic, with a portion of multi-million-dollar, settlement funds, for reparation of generations of families living with health conditions imposed by a mining legacy of lead pollution.  See the attached flyer for further event information, and join us in protecting the future of Silver Valley children, community, environment, and economic development. Continue reading

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September 21 Lake Communities Climate Strike & #No2ndBridge March


Global Event in Sandpoint Offers a Public Rally & Coast Guard Decision Protest

350 Sandpoint, Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT), and communities around Lake Pend Oreille are hosting two north Idaho activities in solidarity with the Global Climate Strike and in resistance to the ongoing pollution, climate impacts, and regional risks of Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway’s present and proposed, fossil fuels pipeline-on-rails across Lake Pend Oreille and north Idaho.  Event organizers request that participants bring signs and voices addressing the climate crisis, and gather together with friends and families on Saturday, September 21, at East Farmin Park, Third and Main Streets in Sandpoint.  At 1 pm, the Lake Pend Oreille Climate Strike held by 350Sandpoint features speakers and music.  The BNSF Bridges Coast Guard EA Protest led by WIRT marches from the park at 2 pm, in opposition to climate-wrecking, fossil fuels trains and infrastructure expansion [1, 2].

People in 150 countries are organizing Global Climate Strikes on September 20 to 27, with urgent actions to protest fossil fuel pipeline proposals, expansions, and bank funding, to oppose coal, oil, and tar sands extraction and train transportation, to protect local and global air, water, forests, and species, and to push for just and equitable, clean energy solutions.  Amid increasingly chaotic weather, floods, droughts, wildfires, “natural” disasters, and widespread harm to people everywhere, worldwide demonstrations are calling for an end to corporate and government business-as-usual.

Your support and presence on the north Idaho fossil fuels frontline becomes more necessary every day!  Please circulate the website-linked, PDF version of the BNSF Bridges Coast Guard EA Protest Flyer, check the WIRT facebook and website pages for further event information and recent, #No2ndBridge issue updates, notify and invite your contacts, and bring your ideas and enthusiasm to these climate action opportunities [3].  Consider contributing physically and/or fiscally to #No2ndBridge and WIRT campaigns confronting the fossil fuel sources of climate change, online through the Donate to WIRT button or by mail to our Sandpoint and Moscow mailing addresses [4].

Issue Background

During 2018 and 2019, thousands of Northwest citizens diligently participated in state and federal hearings and extended comment periods, requesting a scientifically rigorous, environmental impact statement (EIS) analysis of the environmental and socioeconomic harms inflicted by BNSF Railway’s proposed construction and operation of parallel, second (and consequently later third) bridges across Sand Creek and almost one mile over Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho’s largest, deepest lake [5].  BNSF’s 2.2-mile, Sandpoint Junction Connector project would also double rail line through downtown Sandpoint and across Bridge Street, the only access to a regional, water intake plant, residences, and popular beaches, marinas, and resorts.  The three- to five-year BNSF scheme plans to drive 1000-plus piles for two temporary work spans and three permanent railroad bridges, into over 100 years of train- and coal-polluted, lakebed sediment, critical habitat for threatened bull trout and angler-prized fish, surface and aquifer drinking water, and the heart of Bonner County’s recreation and tourism economy, to enable riskier, more derailment-vulnerable, bi-directional, fossil fuels, hazardous materials, and other train traffic. Continue reading

BNSF Bridges Coast Guard EA Protest


BNSF Bridges Coast Guard EA Protest

Saturday, September 21, 1 pm Global Climate Strike, 2 pm #No2ndBridge March

East Farmin Park, Third and Main Streets, Sandpoint

Sandpoint Monthly WIRT Meeting

7 pm Wednesday, September 18

Gardenia Center, 400 Church Street, Sandpoint

On Thursday, September 5, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) issued a finding of no significant impact (FONSI) and final environmental assessment (EA), instead of a recommendation for a lengthier, more thorough environmental impact statement (EIS), essentially approving Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway’s proposal to build parallel, second (and consequently later third) bridges across Sand Creek and Lake Pend Oreille in northern Idaho.  BNSF’s Sandpoint Junction Connector project would also double 2.2 miles of rail line through downtown Sandpoint, across Bridge Street, and almost one mile over Idaho’s  148-square-mile largest, 1,150-foot deepest lake, home to a variety of angler-prized fish and federally-listed, threatened bull trout and its critical habitat, and the heart of Bonner County’s recreation and tourism economy.

Thanks to thousands of regional citizens who diligently participated in state and federal hearings and comment periods, especially the extended, Coast Guard, draft EA, public input process that ended on May 1, several involved organizations can successfully insist on a widely requested, full, independent EIS study of this BNSF Railway bridge expansion.  Among ongoing, project resistance work since Wild Idaho Rising Tide’s (WIRT) #No2ndBridge Protest #3 in late April, WIRT activists, board members, and allied groups have been scheming a Sandpoint area march to protest the BNSF-pushed, USCG decision to sidestep examination of the environmental and socioeconomic implications of BNSF’s proposed railroad bridges, with a less scientifically rigorous, final EA [1].

Now, more than ever, WIRT needs your support and presence on the north Idaho, fossil fuels frontline!  Join fellow, #No2ndBridge, and community activists at two events this week: 1) the Sandpoint, monthly, WIRT meeting and sign creation party at 7 pm on Wednesday, September 18, in the Gardenia Center, 400 Church Street in Sandpoint, where participants will share ideas and assistance in coordinating, publicizing, and staging the upcoming march, and 2) the Global Climate Strike and BNSF Bridges Coast Guard EA Protest at 1 pm and 2 pm on Saturday, September 21, at east Farmin Park, Third and Main streets in Sandpoint, where friends and families will gather together to hear rally speakers and music, engage in climate solidarity activities, and march in opposition to climate-wrecking, fossil fuels pipeline-on-rails transportation [2].

Please circulate the website-linked, PDF version of the BNSF Bridges Coast Guard EA Protest Flyer, check the WIRT facebook and website pages for further event information and recent, #No2ndBridge issue updates, notify and invite your contacts, and bring protest signs, banners, and enthusiasm to these climate action opportunities [3].  Consider contributing physically and/or fiscally to this #No2ndBridge and WIRT campaigns confronting the fossil fuel sources of climate change, online through the Donate to WIRT button or by mail to our Sandpoint and Moscow mailing addresses [4].  Thanks!

Recent #No2ndBridge Issue Updates Continue reading

Fifth Panhandle Paddle


#No2ndBridge Talk, Direct Action Training, Rally & Paddle

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 [1].  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 [2].

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 [5].  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  [11].  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

Stop Oil Trains 2019 Actions


Regional events mark the Lac-Mégantic and Mosier disaster anniversaries

North Idaho and eastern Washington activists invite everyone to participate in the sixth annual, networked, Stop Oil Trains actions and workshops on Friday, June 28, through Monday, July 1, a week earlier than usual, due to Fourth of July, Canada Day, and local concert festivities on the following weekends.  The five events honor and commemorate the 47 lives lost and downtowns devastated by oil train derailments, spills, explosions, and fires in the lakeside village of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, on July 6, 2013, the Columbia River Gorge town of Mosier, Oregon, on June 3, 2016, and all rail corridor communities threatened and degraded by crude oil pipelines-on-rails.

During the six years since the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, dozens of similar accidents have wrecked public and environmental health and safety and the global climate – more than in the previous four decades.  Nonetheless, Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway carries 22 volatile, Bakken crude oil trains every week, while Union Pacific hauls one to two trains of equally explosive and irretrievably sinkable tar sands per week, along and over rivers, lakes, and tributaries throughout north Idaho and the Northwest, such as the Kootenai, Clark Fork, Pend Oreille, Spokane, Columbia, and other water bodies.  Over 90 percent of these shipments must cross rail bridges above downtown Sandpoint, Sand Creek, and almost one mile over Idaho’s largest, deepest lake, Pend Oreille, where BNSF plans to drive 1000-plus piles into train-spewed, lake and stream bed, coal deposits, threatened bull trout critical habitat, and regional lake and aquifer drinking water, to construct three permanent, parallel, second (and later third) rail bridges, two temporary, work spans, and two miles of doubled tracks west of the current rail line, for riskier, more derailment-vulnerable, bi-directional, oil and other train traffic.

The north Idaho community continues to actively oppose, through public processes, protests, and lawsuits, BNSF’s fossil fuels pipeline-on-rails expansion, as we await and prepare for worst-case-scenario, project decisions by the lead agency, the U.S. Coast Guard, in charge of bridge permits and environmental and socioeconomic review, and by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, overseeing dredge, fill, and wetland activities.  Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) has been scheming further legal maneuvers, since railroad and state lawyers convinced a Moscow judge to dismiss our expensive, district court case against the Idaho Department of Lands encroachment permit in late March 2019, after the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality issued a Clean Water Act water quality certification for the project in September 2018.  With the #No2ndBridge situation soon quickly intensifying, we are arranging regional marches in response to those federal agency announcements, and coordinating a north Idaho, direct action camp with visiting trainers, on Friday through Sunday, September 6 to 8 [1].  As part of WIRT’s yearly Panhandle Paddle, which always offers an issue forum, training workshops, and a flotilla around the railroad bridges, action camp skills-sharing bolsters inland Northwest communities in the crosshairs of the coal, oil, and railroad industries [2].

Sandpoint, Spokane, Moscow, and Missoula activists of 350, Direct Action, Occupy, Palouse Environmental Sustainability Coalition, WIRT, and regional, allied groups have participated with thousands of people around the Northwest and North America, in multiple, public, Stop Oil Trains actions and the one-year anniversary convergence supporting Mosier, hosted by conservation and climate groups [3-5].  Please join concerned citizens in these upcoming outreach, training, and demonstration events, to demand an immediate ban of all Alberta tar sands and Bakken shale oil extraction and train and pipeline transportation, refusing to let Big Oil risk our air, waters, lands, families, friends, homes, and businesses.  Together, in appreciation and solidarity with grassroots and indigenous, environmental and social justice activists across Canada and the U.S., we are organizing various tactics and resources to stage powerful, effective actions defending and protecting frontline communities and the global climate impacted by oil-by-rail pollution and accidents.  Thanks to everyone who has provided invaluable, relevant information, connections, and on-the-ground support for these events.  We welcome your ideas, questions, suggestions, and assistance at these upcoming actions: Reply through the enclosed, contact channels or on-site.  Expect ongoing, issue descriptions and updates, via WIRT facebook posts and website pages. Continue reading

Idaho Navigable Lakes Negotiated Rulemaking


WIRT Comments on Docket 20-0304-1901 Negotiated Rulemaking

On July 12, 2019, Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) provided these extensive, written, still publicly un-posted comments to the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL), for negotiated rulemaking on IDAPA 20.03.04, the administrative rules “governing the regulation of beds, waters, and airspace over navigable lakes in the state of Idaho,” and as information extracted from court records and litigation insights, available for other, public comments [*].  We encourage participation in this IDL rulemaking comment period through and beyond July 12, attendance of statewide, public meetings, and requests for additional public hearings contingent on the unaddressed issues and citizen-unfavorable outcomes arising from the present proceedings.  Public meetings have or will occur as stated on the IDL website [*]:

Wednesday, June 12, 2019, 5 pm MDT

Idaho State University, Student Union Building, Salmon River Suite (third floor)

1065 Cesar Chavez, Pocatello, Idaho

Monday, June 17, 2019, 5 pm PDT

Bonner County Administrative Building, First Floor Conference Room

1500 Highway 2, Sandpoint, Idaho

Tuesday, June 18, 2019, 5 pm PDT

IDL Coeur d’Alene Office, Sundance Conference Room

3284 West Industrial Loop, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

Wednesday, June 19, 2019, 5 pm MDT

Idaho First Bank, Basement Conference Room

475 Deinhard Lane, McCall, Idaho

Thursday, June 20, 2019, 5 pm MDT

Idaho Capitol Building, Majority Caucus Room (W-433, fourth floor)

700 West Jefferson Street, Boise, Idaho

[*] Public Trust: Rulemaking for IDAPA 20.03.04, Docket 20-0304-1901, Idaho Department of Lands

BNSF Bridges EIS or EA March!


Thanks to each of you for your diligent, ongoing, resistance work on the north Idaho, Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway bridge expansion issue!  Since Wild Idaho Rising Tide’s (WIRT) #No2ndBridge Protest #3 and the extended, U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), draft environmental assessment (EA) comment deadline on May 1, WIRT board members, activists, and allied groups have been scheming a Sandpoint area march on an unknown but rapid-response date [*].  The march will either celebrate the still undetermined, Coast Guard decision to recommend a full environmental impact statement (EIS) studying the implications of BNSF’s proposed railroad bridges across Lake Pend Oreille, Sand Creek, and Sandpoint, or protest USCG issuance of a finding of no significant impact (FONSI) and less scientifically rigorous, final EA.

Because the involved Sandpoint, Spokane, Moscow, and Missoula organizations are so proficient at together rallying successful, similar, regional marches and public hearings, we are asking for your and their assistance in co-planning, publicizing, and staging this event.  Please share your ideas about this opportunity (best locations, activities, speakers, days and times of the week, etc.), notify your contacts about this upcoming march via phone, email, texts, and facebook messages, and especially RSVP your intentions to participate in this critical demonstration, by responding to this email note or the facebook event [*].  We need your preparation help with inviting and bringing at least 75 to 100 people to this Sandpoint area, family-friendly march and regionally coordinated solidarity actions.  Please circulate the BNSF Bridges EIS or EA March Flyer, check the WIRT facebook and website pages for updates, and expect a flash-action alert with further event information, within days of a Coast Guard decision during the next few weeks or months.

Please consider contributing physically and/or fiscally to WIRT campaigns confronting the fossil fuel sources of climate change, at our mailing addresses or online at Donate to WIRT.  Thanks!

[*] BNSF Bridges EIS or EA March!

June Meetings, Trainings, & Marches!


Unknown Date: BNSF Bridges EIS or EA March! (excerpted elsewhere)

Sunday, June 2: Extinction Rebellion Meeting, Moscow

An emerging chapter of Extinction Rebellion is organizing in the Moscow-Pullman area, as part of the international, apolitical network engaging non-violent, direct action to persuade governments to act on current climate and ecological emergencies [1].  Gather for the first meeting between 5 and 6 pm on Sunday, June 2, at The Attic, up the back stairs of 314 East Second Street in Moscow.

Sunday, June 2: Know Your Rights Training, Moscow

The Civil Liberties Defense Center (CLDC) of Eugene, Oregon, is hosting a know-your-rights training called Empowering People to Organize for the Climate and Community [2].  While traveling to Montana for a workshops tour, Lauren Regan, the founder, executive director, and senior staff attorney of CLDC, is offering a special training for north Idaho climate defenders.  With 22 years of experience as an activist defense lawyer, representing ShellNo and Break Free Northwest blockaders, many Standing Rock water protectors, and all of the tar sands pipeline valve turners, Lauren also serves as the legal coordinator for the Protect the Protest coalition against SLAPPs (strategic lawsuits against public participation, usually filed by corporations to stymie activist opposition).  Please spread this event news, share the CLDC Know Your Rights Training Flyer, and join Lauren, Extinction Rebellion, and WIRT from 6 to 8:30 pm on Sunday, June 2, in the 1912 Center Fiske Room at 412 East Third Street in Moscow.

Wednesdays, June 5 & 19: WIRT Monthly Meetings, Moscow & Sandpoint Continue reading

#No2ndBridge Protest #3 & Extended Comments


#No2ndBridge Protest #3

At the third of many likely demonstrations, please join Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) and indigenous and climate activists for regional resistance to Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway expansion of its fossil fuels and hazardous materials pipelines-on-rails tracks and two temporary and three permanent bridges across the recreation, tourism, and vacation destination town of Sandpoint, Idaho,  through the downtown marinas, hotels, restaurants, and shops along Sand Creek, and almost one mile over Idaho’s largest, deepest, forested mountain lake, Pend Oreille, home waters of the Kalispel and inland Northwest tribes and the critical habitat of threatened bull trout.  Bring protest signs, banners, voices, and snacks to share, along with the inspiration of speakers, drums, and prayers among fellow, water protectors and concerned, community members, at this frontline, Dog Beach Park rally southeast of Sandpoint, at 1 pm on Sunday, April 28.

#No2ndBridge Extended Comments

Perhaps due to the procedural mistakes of the lead, federal agency overseeing BNSF bridge permits and project analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), over 2,300 written and spoken comments opposing the project and demanding better environmental review, and WIRT and allied requests to extend the comment period to 90 days, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) re-opened for another 30 days (77 total days), until 9 pm on Wednesday, May 1, your potentially last chance to comment on BNSF’s insufficient, draft environmental assessment (EA) of benefits and harms resulting from BNSF’s Sandpoint Junction Connector project [1].  Although NEPA guidelines suggest preparation of concise EAs with no more than 10 to 15 pages, the length alone of the current, BNSF/Jacobs Engineering/U.S. Coast Guard, draft EA, with 116 pages and 12 appendices, indicates that an environmental impact statement (EIS) is needed for such a complex, flawed proposal with significant, but difficult to determine, environmental effects [2, 3].

For further information and comment suggestion resources to assist your letter, see the enclosed links and continually updated posts on the WIRT facebook and website pages [4-6].  Please search for USCG-2018-1085 at the federal, e-rulemaking portal (http://www.regulations.gov), and review your project issue(s) of concern among the draft EA documents.  With your individually unique comments addressing draft EA deficiencies and offering counter-facts, provide personal reasons and affiliations for your project-affected interests and your specific, substantive objections to BNSF project-inflicted harms.  Through the “Comment Now” button, respectfully ask the Coast Guard for:

1) A draft EA comment period extension to 120 days, to better engage seasonal and summer residents and diverse stakeholders,

2) Public, draft EA, and EIS scoping hearings, involving all pertinent agencies, organizations, and citizens, held in the most impacted city, Sandpoint,

3) Core samples and analysis of pollution in the lake bed, railroad right-of-way/easement,

4) Broader considerations of alternative, bridge and location designs and options, especially a rail route off the lake,

5) A more scientifically rigorous, unbiased, independent (not BNSF-contracted), full environmental impact study and statement that comprehensively evaluate the significant, direct, indirect, and cumulative project impacts, and

6) Inclusion of your remarks and accompanying material, supporting an EIS, not a finding of no significant impact (FONSI) and final EA, in the public record and final decisions for docket USCG-2018-1085.

Besides writing and posting your comments to USCG at Regulations.gov, also send them to the following agency officials of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (regulating dredge and fill discharges and wetland impacts through a pending permit), the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (overseeing project water quality impacts with a Clean Water Act section 401 certification issued on September 21, 2018), and the Idaho Department of Lands (rubberstamping lake bed and water impacts with an encroachment permit granted on June 21, 2018, and challenged by WIRT, but dismissed on statutory standing grounds by Idaho district courts).

If you and your friends and family cannot find time to write to the Coast Guard and other agencies, we encourage you to sign with your comments WIRT’s Petition to Deny and Revoke Permits for the BNSF Sandpoint Junction Connector Project, which lists significant impacts of railroad bridge construction and operation on multiple, pertinent factors [7].  We will send petition signatures and remarks posted by midnight on April 30 to the Coast Guard et al.

#No2ndBridge Background & Context Continue reading

#No2ndBridge Comment Deadline, Hearings, Petitions, & 8th WIRT Celebrations


Coast Guard Draft EA Hearings

Thanks to the dozens of citizens who participated in the public hearings hosted by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) at the Ponderay Events Center, on Wednesday, March 13!  The heartwarming demonstrations of strong, thoughtful, regional resistance to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway proposal to build second train bridges over Sand Creek and Lake Pend Oreille in Sandpoint and Bonner County witnessed 23 of 29 testifiers speaking against the project: All seven at the 8 am meeting, and 16 of 22 at the 6 pm proceedings.  Collectively and abundantly, our community possesses plenty of knowledge and passion to heavily supplement the project’s public record with counter-information, and to exhaust all administrative remedies, as we expect better outcomes than from rigged, state hearings and comments.

Offering most of three hours of testimony on the inadequate, draft environmental assessment (EA) for the BNSF Sandpoint Junction Connector project, opponents raised concerns about rail infrastructure expansion impacts on air and water quality, lakebed, mining and coal pollution disturbance, bull trout and other fish, nesting birds, construction noise, traffic, and economic effects, related industrial ventures, lake earthquake scenarios, global climate change from coal- and oil-by-rail exports, catastrophic, oil and hazardous chemical derailments, and more railroad neglect of spills into the watershed [1, 2].  Critics also faulted the draft EA with failure to engage and consult Native tribes and to consider recent seismic activity in bridge plans, overly optimistic impact projections, and insufficient spill-response plans and equipment, all calling for an independent, full environmental impact statement (EIS) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Six railroad supporters, trackside residents, and apparent, labor union, bridge construction accomplices voiced favor for the purported economic benefits, relieved road and rail traffic congestion, and reduced semi-trucks of displaced railroad freight anticipated by the project.  They talked about elimination of train and vehicle bottlenecks across the lake and at crossings, track maintenance and safety, and the supposed success of the U.S. Highway 95 Sand Creek Byway.

Drawing on insights from our ongoing, state encroachment permit lawsuit, Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) activists provided several, legally defensible points extemporaneously and prepared from our research, email alerts, and comment suggestions offered by other groups [3, 4].  In our oral comments, we noted regional and nationwide, BNSF derailment numbers, conditions, and history, possible connections between the proposed, Newport, Washington, silicon smelter and BNSF bridge and track expansion in north Idaho, and lack of USCG notification of navigation-impact commenters about a subsequently prolonged comment period and changed, lake and creek bridge designs, which drew audience gasps.  WIRT also mentioned incomplete or non-existent consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on threatened bull trout and its critical habitat in the project area, and with regional, sovereign nations, except the Kootenai and especially missing the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe of a WIRT board member.

However, WIRT activists were surprised by allied organization’s unnecessary, public statements at the hearings, about their neutral positions neither supporting nor opposing the BNSF bridge project, which foist the burden of commitment to court challenges and physical resistance of agency decision and permit outcomes on overworked, volunteer, regional community groups.  We have received no replies to our request for their explanations of motivations behind these most disheartening remarks.

Hearing & Bridge Issue Reports

WIRT photographed and recorded most, but not all, of the March 13, morning and evening hearing testimony for facebook-posting and broadcasting on our weekly, Climate Justice Forum radio program, produced by climate activists for over seven years, for progressive, volunteer, community station KRFP Radio Free Moscow [5, 6].  Besides news and reflections describing continent-wide resistance to fossil fuel projects, the root causes of climate change, and related topics, we aired the morning hearing during the last half-hour of the March 13 show, and the first half of the evening hearing on the March 20 edition, both temporarily available for listening on Radio Free America, by searching for KRFP, and viewing its full archive of Wednesday shows [7].  Tune in to 90.3 FM and online next (and every!) Wednesday, between 1:30 and 3 pm Pacific time, to hear the last hour of the evening, March 13 hearing [8].

Considering that “public” television and Idaho welcome ads and funds from fossil fuel companies, we are not surprised that an Idaho public television program about Lake Pend Oreille lingered long on depicting Kalispel home lands/waters and lake fisheries issues culminating with bull trout, but never identified it as an endangered species, before the show launched into the railroad history and context of the #No2ndBridge battle (between 34:45 and 38:30), but never mentioned proposed, fossil fuels pipeline-on-rails construction in bull trout’s federally-designated critical habitat in the lake [9].  At least, the one-hour presentation revealed the natural beauty and jeopardized health of our Panhandle region.

#No2ndBridge Comments by Monday, March 25

As the lead, federal agency overseeing BNSF bridge permits and project analysis under NEPA, the Coast Guard needs to hear from north Idahoans and our regional neighbors, via the potentially last opportunity to request that the USCG require additional impact evaluations through an EIS, instead of issuing a finding of no significant impact (FONSI) and final EA.  Individually unique comments, which substantively address the deficiencies of the draft EA documents and processes and the BNSF project, provide the counterbalance of local wisdom so crucial to community protection of our watershed.  With only days remaining to act, see the WIRT website and facebook pages for further information to assist your letter, and share your earnest, public input efforts with your friends and family.

Please search for and review your project issue(s) of concern among the draft EA documents at the federal e-rulemaking portal (http://www.regulations.gov), and identify docket number USCG-2018-1085 in your respectful comments accepted until 9 pm on Monday, March 25.  Ask the Coast Guard to include your remarks and accompanying facts in the public record for this project, for an extension to 90 days for this winter-inappropriate, comment period, to better involve seasonal residents, for hearings in the most impacted community, Sandpoint, for considerations of alternative rail and bridge routes, for core samples of pollution in the lake bed, railroad right-of-way/easement, and for a more scientifically rigorous, unbiased, environmental impact study and statement examining this BNSF scheme.  WIRT activists eagerly anticipate and appreciate everyone’s initiative, expertise, and advocacy during this decisive, project review phase.

WIRT Petition, Litigation, Crowdfunding, & Annual Celebration Continue reading