Second Lake Rail Bridge Protest #1 Report

Thanks to each of the 20 indigenous, community, and climate activists who participated in the Second Lake Rail Bridge Protest #1 between 9 and 11:30 am on Monday, May 8, on the Dog Beach Park path and site of pile drive tests in preparation for Burlington Northern Santa Fe’s (BNSF) proposed, second, 4800-foot, rail bridge across Lake Pend Oreille, near Sandpoint, Idaho! [1-3]

At 9:09 am, BNSF again attempted, but failed this time, to rush a westbound, unit oil train past a rail-line community, in advance of another demonstration. The train crossed over Sand Creek near its lake outlet, on the single-track bridge that BNSF plans to double-track along with construction of the parallel lake bridge.  Water protectors at the event stood with banners in the mid-morning light and close proximity to the train that WIRT activists documented with high-resolution photos clearly identifying its “1267” crude oil hazmat placards.  They later noticed several alarming components of these tanker cars illustrated in the photos: tangles of snaggable, undercarriage wires and tanker end valves facing each other on adjacent cars and protruding from rectangular, metal bar “shields.”  These purportedly safe rail cars looked like an end-to-end, heavy, oil car crash accident waiting to happen.

Marching with protest signs visibly close to U.S. Highway 95, the Bonner County residents and three Washington friends waved to the BNSF cops and contracted, Oregon workers, before reaching the lake shore and standing with banners in front of the pile drive crane and the Lake Pend Oreille rail bridge. As new participants arrived, they circled, smudged, prayed, drummed, and sang in ceremony, then reflected on and discussed second rail bridge concerns among themselves and on video.  They gradually dispersed and waved goodbye to the railroad crew and police, and gathered for lunch before three visiting Kalispel Nation and Spokane activists departed. Continue reading

Second Lake Rail Bridge Protest #1

THANKS to everyone who contributed practical and passionate insights to the Thursday evening, May 4, Second Rail Bridge Community Meeting. Resulting from this amazing, shared, grassroots organizing, Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) and allies have initiated three ongoing projects in resistance to Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway’s (BNSF) proposed, second, rail bridge in Lake Pend Oreille.

First, we have opened conversations and continue to seek information from city, county, state, and federal regulatory agencies responsible for bridge testing and building permits. As further discussed in an upcoming report with issue background and recent developments, on Monday, May 8, BNSF will commence two preliminary pile load tests on land (not near water or in the lake, as assumed) below the railroad tracks north of Dog Beach Park just outside Sandpoint, Idaho, in its right-of-way property, requiring no permitting.

Second, we are composing a legally defensible, sign-on letter to include numerous, regional groups in opposition to initial pile load tests and proposed construction of a second lake rail bridge. Our coordinated outreach is asking for the support of elected officials, media, allies, and the regional community, as we build a strong case against this BNSF plan.

Third, as the first of many likely demonstrations, we are protesting BNSF pile drive work near Dog Beach Park. Please join WIRT and allied climate and community activists and Kalispel Nation members at 9 am on Monday, May 8, for the Second Lake Rail Bridge Protest #1.  Meet us in the parking lots near the Power House (120 East Lake Street) or visitor center/trailhead at the East Superior Street/Highway 95 intersection or on the bike path north of Dog Beach Park.  Bring your protest signs and banners, drums, voice, and, for protection from pile drive noise, ear plugs, to vote early and often with your body against this first and subsequent, second bridge invasions!

Power Up!  Resist, Insist, Persist!  Warriors Up!

Second Rail Bridge Community Meeting

Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT), RADAR, and allied, indigenous and climate activists are hosting a community meeting to discuss and design resistance to Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) plans for a second, parallel, rail bridge over Lake Pend Oreille and associated, potentially illegal, temporary ramps and heavy equipment on public lands and pile driven, load bearing tests in the lake, starting on Monday, May 1.  Concerned, regional citizens are welcome to participate from 5:30 to 7:30 pm on Thursday, May 4, in Rooms 103 and 104 of the East Bonner County Library, 1407 Cedar Street in Sandpoint, Idaho.

Predictably in conservative, small, Idaho towns, direct action seems our only recourse, without any public input opportunities, or even information, about the permitting processes for these railroad invasions impacting water and air quality and community noise levels and access to public lands and waters.  Photos of a BNSF ad in the Sunday, April 30, Bonner County Daily Bee bear logistical information about rail bridge work already underway [1].  WIRT website and facebook event pages will soon expand this announcement to provide further issue, meeting, and protest information.

Also on this May Day, the second, Sandpoint area, train derailment in one and a half months occurred around 6 am, on BNSF tracks paralleling U.S. Highway 95, less than 13 rail miles west of the current and proposed, 4800-foot, rail bridges over Lake Pend Oreille [2].  About 25 scattered, mangled cars of a presumably westbound, unit, corn train left the straight rail line in front of Valley Vista Ranch near Cocolalla, north of Highway 95 milepost 460.  On March 17, an eastbound, empty, unit, coal train derailed between Ponderay and Kootenai, only three rail miles east of the lake rail bridge.

[1] Second Rail Bridge Community Meeting, May 1, 2017 Wild Idaho Rising Tide facebook photo

[2] The Second, Sandpoint Area, Train Derailment…, May 1, 2017 Wild Idaho Rising Tide facebook photo

Oil & Gas Development & Resistance in Idaho Communities

Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT), Citizens Allied for Integrity and Accountability (CAIA), and allied activists earnestly invite you to participate in a presentation and forum on fossil fuel extraction in Idaho, held at 7 pm on Saturday, April 29, in the 1912 Center Fiske Room, 412 East Third Street in Moscow, Idaho.  In the wake of the Lori Batina Memorial Climate March and the People’s Climate March in Sandpoint, we are grateful and honored to welcome Shelley Brock of CAIA in Eagle, Idaho, sharing with the Moscow-Pullman-Palouse community an evening talk about oil and gas development and resistance in Idaho communities and associated, practical solutions to the regional causes of the global climate crisis [1-3].

Through a brief presentation with photos, giving a descriptive overview of the current, Treasure Valley, oil and gas situation and offering a question-and-answer session and open forum afterward, Shelley will inform and show audience members the extent of Idaho oil and gas leasing, the effects of fossil fuels drilling and producing, and the efforts of citizen, legal challenges of integration (forced pooling) applications.  She will also bring and display a dozen posters and distribute printed material about these oil and gas industry invasions impacting landowners and taxpayers throughout the state.

This public education opportunity aims to empower and encourage Idahoans and their neighbors to gain and exchange knowledge and understanding of climate change sources in Idaho, to initiate and sustain effective, grassroots, resistance work, and to support concerned, fellow citizens on the southwest Idaho gasland frontlines.  The Union of Concerned Scientists states that, “In 2014, approximately 78 percent of U.S. global warming emissions were energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide.  Of this, approximately 42 percent was from oil and other liquids, 32 percent from coal, and 27 percent from natural gas.” [4]

During Earth Week outreach events at the University of Idaho and Washington State University, students expressed great interest in this talk.  With your friends and families, please attend this well researched, highly recommended presentation, to learn about new and expanding fossil fuel infrastructure, operations, rules and legislation, and organized opposition in Idaho and across the Northwest.  CAIA and WIRT appreciate your work on climate and fossil fuels issues and your potential participation in this forum with free admission and requested contributions toward discussions and event costs. Continue reading

Friday, April 14, Spokane Megaload Alert!

According to Spokane television media sources shared by a core Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) activist, one of at least three half-million-pound megaloads heading to an oil refinery near Blaine, northwest Washington, will move from the Idaho panhandle into Washington at 7 pm this evening, Friday, April 14 [1].  The Washington State Department of Transportation and the huge size of the boiler and truck/trailer combination, together weighing 480,000 pounds and measuring 213 feet long and almost 22 feet wide, require that this megaload only moves during overnight hours on a route avoiding low, interstate overpasses and bridges that may not withstand its weight.

The megaload will travel along Washington Highway 290 and Trent Avenue, south on Pines Road to the Interstate 90 westbound lanes, then exit onto Broadway Avenue in Spokane [2].  After turning south on Fancher, it will proceed west onto Third then Second Avenues past Altamont, before re-entering the westbound interstate.  Detouring through Cheney on Washington Highway 904, the megaload will take I-90 south to the Country Travel Plaza at Highways 395 and 26, where it will stop for the day.  Please see the following media coverage, megaload route map, and facebook posts, and join Spokane and north Idaho activists for multiple protests of this fossil fuel infrastructure, starting at the Trent and Pines intersection at 7:30 pm. Continue reading

MRL-BNSF Empty Coal Train Derailment in Ponderay, Idaho

Rain and snow melt washed-out, BNSF train tracks above the Black Rock, lead-contaminated, former smelter site on Lake Pend Oreille in Ponderay, Idaho (Joshua Voss photo)

At 6:05 am on a dark, rainy Saint Patrick’s Day, Friday, March 17, 50 to 60 empty cars and a rear locomotive of an eastbound, Montana Rail Link (MRL), unit coal train derailed, remained upright, caused no injuries, and released no obvious hazardous materials in Ponderay and Kootenai, Idaho [1-5].  The wreck occurred on MRL’s mainline, owned and operated in Idaho by Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway, a route typically carrying mixed freight and Powder River Basin coal – rarely Bakken shale oil and Alberta tar sands crude – from the east, through Missoula, around Lake Pend Oreille, and over the 4800-foot rail bridge southeast of Sandpoint.  Railroad first responders assessed the situation, located approximately 450 feet uphill and separated from the lake shoreline by a stretch of trees, only 250 feet from modest homes and two blocks from the post office and police station in Ponderay.  They would not estimate the timing of the re-opening of their tracks, but determined that recently intense rains and rapid snow melt had washed out a section of collapsed tracks “east of the intersection of Third Street and Cedar Avenue.” [6]

One set of train tracks and a Jersey barrier were suspended over a 30-foot-tall void in the railroad’s embankment on Friday.  At the bottom of the void was a current of storm water.  Other culverts under the tracks on Ponder Point appeared to be running at or near capacity on Friday afternoon…The cause of the wash-out remained under investigation…”High water levels and ground saturation are contributing factors.” [6]

The BNSF and MRL railroad companies, respectively based in Fort Worth, Texas, and Missoula, Montana, brought dozens of crew members, semi-trucks and trailers, and large pieces of ground and track-mounted, heavy equipment to staging areas east and west of the derailment, at Kootenai Bay Road and Seven Sisters Drive on both sides of Idaho Highway 200 in Kootenai, and at Fourth Street and Elm Avenue, adjacent to the railroad right-of-way in Ponderay, all photographed by Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT).  Despite overwhelming railroad presence and close proximity to Ponderay houses, businesses, and government facilities, media stories rarely mentioned Ponderay as the location of this historic mishap, instead stating a derailment “west of Kootenai Bay Road in Kootenai, Idaho,” in the vicinity of a wealthy, lakeside, residential neighborhood.

While media reporters and government officials easily accessed the MRL-BNSF derailment mitigation staging site in Ponderay, to obtain crucial information, photographs of the damaged track area, and footage of interviews, nearby, impacted, community members and fossil fuel train monitoring and opposing activists could only reach the accident scene by vehicle and on foot for miles on snowy, lakeside trails, on muddy residential streets, and through wet forests, evading railroad cops to find, observe, and ascertain the accident scene [7-9].  At about 3 pm, two black helicopters left the Sandpoint Airport, circled over Lake Pend Oreille, and flew over the incident site.  Not until the following day, March 18, the local newspaper provided comprehensive event coverage confirming additional details of the emerging story.  By 4:48 pm on that rainy Saturday afternoon, a Kansas City Southern engine trailed one of the first, westbound, mixed freight trains crossing tracks repaired over the 30-foot chasm likely filled by the multiple dump trucks seen in the area since Friday. Continue reading

Valve Turners House Parties in Moscow & Sandpoint

Inspired by the “valve turners’” bold and decisive actions that shut down pipelines flowing from Canada to the primary tar sands market, America consumers, Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) is hosting public house parties in Moscow and Sandpoint, to support these blockaders’ legal defense funds and to elevate conversations about rising to the challenges of this critical, historic moment [1].  In this era of a federal fossil fuel administration, building stronger communities of climate dissidents preparing for the next wave of direct actions is more crucial than ever.  So please join us at 6 pm on Thursday, March 9, at The Attic, up the back stairs of 314 East Second Street in Moscow, and/or at 12 noon on Saturday, March 11, in the upstairs room of Eichardt’s Pub at 212 Cedar Street in Sandpoint.  We welcome all participant ages and concerns at this Shut It Down – Climate Direct Action fundraiser requesting $10 suggested donations with free admission.

On October 11, 2016, five brave climate activists closed the emergency shut-off valves of five major pipelines carrying Canadian tar sands oil into Washington, Montana, North Dakota, and Minnesota.  In solidarity with Standing Rock, Cheyenne River, and other Lakota nations and allied water protectors at resistance camps invaded by police, their nonviolent civil disobedience together stopped 15 percent of a day’s U.S. crude oil imports.  Now these activists and four accompanying documentarians are facing multiple felony and misdemeanor charges with maximum, potential, prison sentences ranging from 10 to 81 years.  Beyond some pro bono legal help, the group has had to hire several lawyers and needs to raise $50,000 to cover legal, trial, and travel expenses, as they tell their stories about urgent climate action.

Before setting out to cut chains and locks and block pipeline valves across the country, the tar sands valve turners – Annette, Emily, Ken, Leonard, and Michael – and their support crew – Ben, Reed, Sam, and Steve – were not specially trained activists.  They are just ordinary people with the strength of their convictions and the courage to act on them.  But their example, along with similar skills and practices, show how people rightfully concerned about climate catastrophe can stand up and take serious action in a time of denial and a world of “alternative facts.”  With the fossil fuel industry now not only controlling governments at every level in the U.S., but also holding positions of power within them, we all need to support folks already taking big legal risks and to move ourselves to that next step, by truthfully, assertively acting to halt the fossil fuel sources of climate cataclysm and our collective crimes against future generations.

During the last weekend in February, Shut It Down – Climate Direct Action and allies organized the first, experimental round of house parties, meeting with friends to raise funds to help the valve turners in Bellevue, Washington, Brooklyn, New York, Burlington, Vermont, Hanover, New Hampshire, and Houston, Texas.  Please gather with us at these fun events, held by dozens of groups across the country, introducing you and your friends, family, and colleagues to powerful climate direct action, and sharing the work of Shut It Down and WIRT.  We will provide valve turner videos and information about how to stage and live stream adventurous and effective actions.  For further event and co-host information, see ShutItDown.Today and and contact us with your questions. Continue reading

Tell Idaho Representatives to Reject ITD Highway 12 Megaload Rules

On Friday, January 27, the Nez Perce Tribe, U.S. Forest Service, and Idaho Rivers United, with the help of Advocates for the West attorneys, reached a settlement in mediation resolving megaload traffic on U.S. Highway 12, as ordered by the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals [1-3].  Resulting from three years of studies and discussions, to which the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) was invited but refused to participate, the agreement prohibits some megaloads from traveling through the wild and scenic Middle Fork Clearwater and Lochsa river corridor, between highway mileposts 74 and 174, from around Kooskia to the Montana border.  Grateful for all of the citizens and tribal members who worked tirelessly for years to achieve this triumph, Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) acknowledges and applauds our colleagues (including Fighting Goliath, Friends of the Clearwater, and others) who have slowed, if not stopped, a rapid, violent process of conceiving, building, and transporting massive loads of fossil fuel infrastructure that privilege oil company profits over local people and wild places.

Thanks to everyone for the good news and congratulations on this megaload court case resolution, and for credit for peaceful and well-voiced megaload protests throughout the region.  But defense of treaty and public lands and rivers via lawsuits creates sacrifice zones, like the Dakota Access pipeline path diverted from Bismarck to Standing Rock to other watersheds in North Dakota.  WIRT activists hope but do not trust that this current mediation success will not again endanger and dismiss diverse communities along alternative, regional, megaload routes beyond the Nez Perce reservation and national forest and the Clearwater-Lochsa wild and scenic river corridor.  We will continue to support and assist megaload resistance and uprisings along other region-wide highways supplying interior shale oil and gas and tar sands extraction operations from Columbia River basin and Pacific ports.

On and beyond Highway 12, WIRT and grassroots and indigenous allies (Act on Climate, All Against the Haul, Blues Skies Campaign, Idaho Mythweaver, Indian Peoples Action, Coeur d’Alene, Nez Perce, Shoshone-Bannock, Umatilla, and Warm Springs tribes, Fighting Goliath, Friends of the Clearwater, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Idaho Rivers United, Kootenai Environmental Alliance, Northern Rockies Earth First!, Palouse Environmental Sustainability Coalition, and 350, Occupy, and Rising Tide groups in Bellingham, Boise, Missoula, Moscow, Portland, Seattle, and Spokane, among many others) accomplished intensive, loosely coordinated, megaload protests and campaigns on the ground and in the courts from 2010 to 2014.  We necessarily devised creative tactics that effectively, but not as apparently, overcame not only the industry and government adversaries shared with litigating allies, but also the public neglect and dismissal of our efforts engendered by more obvious and publicized lawsuit wins.  WIRT minimally celebrates court case gains that deflect the enemy and/or problem to groups with lesser capacities to resist, at least through the conservative state administrative system, due to our concerns over environmental justice, mainstream conservation organization protocol, and the increased possibility under the Trump administration of looming megaload onslaughts on every regional river, road, and rail line, including Highway 12.

By now, we all know these predictable outcomes: If Highway 12 megaload opponents win, communities along alternative, industrial corridors across the rest of the region lose, as they fall directly into the crosshairs of Big Oil’s megaload traffic.  Under the Trump-Tillerson dirty energy tyranny, ALL Northwest and Northern Rockies routes could overflow with both fossil fuel infrastructure and its resistance.  WIRT will NOT fiddle a victory tune on Highway 12, while the planet (and even the Big Wild forests around U.S. 12) burn.  But the new presidency may inadvertently force us all to finally act as mutually supportive, ecologically sustainable communities, who esteem both wildlands and their sacrifice zones as sacred.  We wonder if such a shift is possible though, among the colonized, Western civilizations that mainstream conservation and climate groups wish to maintain, while the triple threats of capitalism, fascism, and climate change increasingly impose the brutal karma of ridiculous American hubris. Continue reading

Payette County Forced Pooling Protest



Please join Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) and allies at 8 am MST on Wednesday, December 14, for the Payette County Forced Pooling Protest on the Idaho Capitol steps at 700 West Jefferson Street in Boise, Idaho. Concerned citizens from throughout Idaho are coming together to stand in support of over 150 Payette County families and home, property, and business owners whom the state of Idaho and a Houston, Texas-based fossil fuel producer are pushing into oil and gas leases for integration, or “forced pooling,” of their private resources [1, 2].  Alta Mesa Idaho (AMI) integration applications to the Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission could impose extraction of Idahoans’ oil and gas, with or without their permission, from three new wells, and perhaps many more, on two adjacent, one-square-mile sections of land and another, smaller tract in and near the Fruitland community.  With state approval, Alta Mesa and other toxic intruders could directionally drill, hydraulically fracture (“frack”), and chemically “treat” these wells beneath and only 200 feet on the ground from a few hundred subdivision homes and other structures like schools and hospitals, and under, next to, or within less than a mile of the Snake and Payette rivers and their wetlands and floodplains, and below already leased U.S. Highway 95 (See the attached photos of spacing units).

At 9 am on Wednesday, December 14, the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) is holding the first administrative hearings on contested AMI forced pooling applications since the Idaho Legislature passed SB1339 in March 2016, the egregious statute that changes and rushes the integration process to benefit the oil and gas industry and trample citizen rights anywhere in the state. The advocacy group Citizens Allied for Integrity and Accountability (CAIA) has retained constitutional law attorney James Piotrowski, of the law firm Herzfeld and Piotrowski, to represent a group of unwillingly integrated, officially objecting, Payette County mineral owners [3, 4].  In the Lincoln Auditorium, Room WWO2 in the lower level of the Idaho Capitol west wing, integration objectors will challenge the legality of the proposed spacing units and of IDL’s due processes that afford impacted landowners insufficient time and information to consider forced pooling applications and to consult attorneys, banks, and insurance companies about the adverse financial consequences of integration on property rights, values, mortgages, and insurance.

Participate in the 8 am protest and attend the 9 am hearings, continued if necessary at the same locations on Thursday, December 15, to show your support of hardworking, tax-paying, Payette County and regional residents, by serving as protesters, observers, witnesses, and testifiers. Oil and gas industry invasions accommodated by state sanctioned forced pooling could inevitably jeopardize air and water quality and quantity, contaminate ground and surface water, wells, and agricultural lands, and ultimately degrade the sustainability and quality of life in Idaho.  Because citizens throughout the Treasure Valley – from eastern Oregon to Twin Falls and in Ada, Canyon, Cassia, Gem, Owyhee, Payette, Twin Falls, Washington, and other Idaho counties – could eventually endure the ravages of these same integration rules, Idahoans should demonstrate with a large turnout, noticed by public officials and media reporters, that a majority of us will confront these injustices that transcend southwestern Idaho.  In honor of Dakota Access pipeline resistance supporting the Standing Rock Sioux, it is time for us to rise up on Idaho’s fossil fuel frontlines and protect our waters and lands! Continue reading

Moscow & Sandpoint Host Tar Sands Pipeline Valve Turners


Tar Sands Pipeline Valve Turners: Civil Disobedience

Featuring Leonard Higgins in person and Emily Johnston, Michael Foster, and Ken Ward via Skype

Saturday, December 3, 12 pm to 2 pm, in Eichardt’s Pub upstairs room, 212 Cedar Street, Sandpoint, Idaho

Sunday, December 4, 12 pm to 2 pm, in the 1912 Center Fiske Room, 412 E. Third Street, Moscow, Idaho

Public forums and fundraisers co-hosted by #ShutItDown – Climate Direct Action and Wild Idaho Rising Tide

$10 suggested donation for the #ShutItDown legal defense fund

All ages of participants and free admission are welcome.

On October 11, 2016, five brave climate organizers successfully closed the manual, emergency valves of five pipelines carrying oil from the Canadian tar sands into the northern United States [1, 2].  Their unprecedented acts of nonviolent direct action to avert climate cataclysm shut down 15 percent of U.S. crude oil imports for nearly a day.

Emily Johnston, age 50, and retired attorney Annette Klapstein, 64, each interrupted Enbridge’s Lines 4 and 67 pipelines in Leonard, Minnesota.  Michael Foster, 52, shut down TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline in Walhalla, North Dakota.  Leonard Higgins, 64, who locked down to a tar sands megaload in Umatilla in December 2013, halted the flow of Spectra Energy’s Express pipeline at Coal Banks Landing near Great Falls, Montana.  Ken Ward, 59, a Climate Disobedience Center and #ShutItDown co-founder, stopped Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline in Anacortes, Washington. Continue reading