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

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

Olympia Stand Blockade Talk


Sandpoint/Olympia Activist Talks about Fracking Sand Train Blockade

Saturday, November 26, 12 noon

East Bonner County Library Room 104

1407 Cedar Street, Sandpoint, Idaho

Please join Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) and allies at 12 noon on Saturday, November 26, in Room 104 of the East Bonner County Library, 1407 Cedar Street in Sandpoint, Idaho, for a public presentation offered by Brian Wolcott, an Evergreen College student, Olympia Stand activist, and Sandpoint resident.  With photos, videos, and descriptions, Brian will talk about the week-long Olympia Stand blockade of a train transporting Chinese fracking proppants from the Port of Olympia to the Bakken shale oil and gas fields in North Dakota, the source of leaky pipeline oil and explosive oil trains.  Between November 11 and 18, community demonstrations and an encampment on the tracks expressed solidarity with Native-led Dakota Access Pipeline resistance at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota and with indigenous sovereignty movements defending the water, fishing, and hunting rights of local tribes, before riot police injured, arrested, and dispersed blockaders and protesters in downtown Olympia, Washington.  For further event information, Olympia Stand media releases, regional and national news coverage of the blockade, and a donation site for arrestees’ legal funds, see the Olympia Stand public facebook group and the event announcement on the WIRT website [1, 2].

WIRT Meeting with Visiting Olympia Stand Activist

Although WIRT did not hold our usual, third Wednesday, monthly gathering in Sandpoint this November, we invite WIRT activists, allies, friends, and contacts to connect and start collaboration with an Olympia comrade during the Thanksgiving break.  Converge at 10:30 am for a private, closed-door, WIRT planning meeting, before Brian’s greatly appreciated noon presentation, in Room 104 of the East Bonner County Library.  Brian grew up in Sandpoint, and intends to return to the Coeur d’Alene area to organize resistance efforts, when he concludes his Evergreen education.  During his weekend visit with his family and hometown, he hopes to share and discuss with old friends and the Sandpoint activist community ideas and decisions about coal, oil, and fracking sand train protesting and monitoring, the role that police play in demonstrations, and any other helpful information.

Eastbound Fracking Proppant Train Monitoring

During most days and evenings, from our office window (a block away from the Amtrak station) and along Sand Creek, WIRT watches and documents westbound, Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF), unit coal and oil trains crossing downtown Sandpoint.  So we are happy to alert regional residents to the additional opportunity to monitor fracking proppant/sand train movements.  Olympia Stand and WIRT organizers ask that all of us notice and report to them any groups of a dozen, whitish, covered, eastbound rail cars carrying fracking sand from the Port of Olympia to the Bakken Basin in North Dakota.  Traversing the region first as unit trains on a short rail line to a Seattle train yard, then as parts of mixed freight trains on mainline BNSF tracks through Spokane, north Idaho, and the Montana Hi-Line, the hopper cars have a key, confirmed feature of two  (not the usual three) square, funnel-like ports on their bottoms.  To accomplish this trainspotting and report proppant cars, please view the color and shape, number of cars, and overall train composition in the clear photos and videos of the rail cars provided in these links, especially the Olympian video of the heavily guarded train rolling through Olympia after the blockade [3-5].  Together, Northwest climate and indigenous activists are observing and noting the amount of time typically required for fracking supplies to move from Olympia to Sandpoint to North Dakota. Continue reading

Totem Poles & Kayaks Against Fossil Fuels: Second Panhandle Paddle

Totem Poles & Kayaks Against Fossil Fuels Flyer

Join in some summer fun on the water and beach to show Big Oil and King Coal and their railroad industry haulers and government facilitators that north Idahoans will not stand for their reckless endangerment of our lives, communities, water, air, and climate with their explosive Alberta tar sands and Bakken crude oil trains and their heavy, dusty Powder River Basin coal trains. Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) activists, members, and friends in Sandpoint, Moscow, Spokane, and across the interior Northwest are organizing and hosting the second annual Panhandle Paddle at 11 am on Sunday, August 28.  We invite everyone to bring their boats of any kind and converge after the Lummi Totem Pole Journey visit at City Beach Park in Sandpoint, Idaho, for music, speakers, and on- and off-shore protests of Northwest fossil fuel transports and terminals and Lake Pend Oreille rail bridge deterioration, use, and expansion [1].  Please also participate in these second Panhandle Paddle activities:

Sign Preparation Party

RSVP and meet at 1 pm on Saturday, August 27, at the WIRT outreach table under the Farmin Park clock at the Farmers’ Market at Sandpoint, or anytime on Saturday afternoon at the WIRT Sandpoint office at 301 North First Avenue, Suite 209B, above Finan McDonald Clothing Company in Sandpoint, Idaho. We welcome assistance with creating and constructing huge, attractive banners and signs that kayaktivists, boaters, and rally participants can hoist from watercraft or the beach and that observers can see at great distances.

Palouse Area Carpool

Gather on Sunday, August 28, by 6 am for the totem pole blessing or 8 am for the kayaktivist action, in the parking lot beneath the Rosauers sign at 411 North Main Street in Moscow, Idaho. Panhandle Paddle activists could return to the Palouse region by 3 or 4 pm or later that evening, depending on carpooler arrangements.  Please contact WIRT for further information about this shared travel.

Watercraft Rental

Several downtown Sandpoint local businesses can provide rentals of single and tandem/double kayaks, paddle boards, and boats. Please respond to WIRT with your watercraft rental intentions for the event, so we can cover some of this equipment availability and cost for participants.

* Outdoor Experience, 314 North First Avenue, 208-263-6028,

First-come, first served rentals of two single kayaks for two hours ($30) or 24 hours ($45), or of two tandem/double kayaks for two hours ($40) or 24 hours ($55), or of paddle boards for $20 per hour

* Action Water Sports, 100 North First Avenue, 208-255-7100,

Reservable rentals of two single kayaks, two tandem/double kayaks, or paddle boards for $20 per hour or for four hours ($50) or for eight hours ($90), provided with brief instructions before departure

Grassroots Climate Activism Support

Can you donate toward watercraft rental fees or offer boats, gear, or supplies for this event [2]? Could you contribute your inspiring words and/or melodies or delicious snacks and beverages?  Would you drive enthusiastic Panhandle Paddle participants to Sandpoint?  Can your group or organization endorse and/or co-sponsor this demonstration of people power?  Please contact WIRT through any of the enclosed channels, to bolster this community event or assist with our collective expenses.

Peruse the following background information about these opportunities and profusely print and post the attached, color, letter-sized Totem Poles & Kayaks Against Fossil Fuels Flyer.  We eagerly anticipate sharing these experiences with you and your family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers, thankful that regional community members are actively opposing dirty energy extraction and transportation.

Panhandle Paddle Background Continue reading

Totem Poles & Kayaks Against Fossil Fuels: Lummi Visit Sandpoint

Totem Poles & Kayaks Against Fossil Fuels Flyer

On Sunday morning, August 28, at 9 am, the Lummi Nation House of Tears carvers are bringing their fourth totem pole to City Beach Park in Sandpoint, Idaho, and at 11 am on the same morning (instead of August 27), north Idaho kayaktivists are launching the second Panhandle Paddle around the Lake Pend Oreille rail bridge. These successive events share the goals of the Lummi Totem Pole Journeys: To “defeat proposed fossil fuel projects, while laying the foundation for a broad-based alliance on future issues of common concern related to fossil fuels and climate change.”

Please join the co-hosts and coordinators of the Totem Pole Journey stop in Sandpoint – Idaho Conservation League, Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper, and the City of Sandpoint – and other regional groups actively opposing fossil fuel projects, such as 350Sandpoint, Idaho Mythweaver, Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT), and allies, at the paved area behind the snack shack at City Beach Park, 102 Bridge Street in Sandpoint, Idaho [1].

Welcoming and blessing ceremonies commence at 9 am, with guest speakers from tribes, nongovernmental organizations, and municipalities raising awareness of the impacts of fossil fuels and the necessity of broad citizen opposition. Before group members of this final Lummi tour pack up and haul the totem pole to Missoula, Montana, and ultimately Winnipeg, Manitoba, it will remain on display until 11 am.

The Second Panhandle Paddle will launch an on- and off-shore rally and kayak and boat flotilla from City Beach Park after the Lummi totem pole event, to voyage around the Lake Pend Oreille rail bridge with a recently discovered crack [2, 3]. Physically demonstrating local resistance to coal, shale oil, and tar sands trains traversing north Idaho and the lake, the action organized by WIRT and allies further mobilizes frontline, inland Northwest communities unjustly impacted by the risks and pollution of fossil fuel transports.

Peruse the following background information about these opportunities and profusely print and post the attached, color, letter-sized Totem Poles and Kayaks Against Fossil Fuels Flyer. We eagerly anticipate sharing these experiences with you and your family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers, grateful that tribes across the continent are leading the current movement to protect lands and waters for future generations.

Lummi Totem Pole Journey Background Continue reading

#StopOilTrains in Idaho Week of Action Report

Candlelight vigil and march to honor Lac-Mégantic oil train victims, led by Wild Idaho Rising Tide from Farmin Park, Sandpoint, on Tuesday evening, July 12, 2016

Candlelight vigil and march to honor Lac-Mégantic oil train victims, led by Wild Idaho Rising Tide from Farmin Park, Sandpoint, on Tuesday evening, July 12, 2016

On July 9 to 12, three north Idaho climate activist groups staged four events for the #StopOilTrains in Idaho Week of Action, joining thousands of people in continent-wide commemorations of the three-year anniversary of 47 lives lost to a Bakken crude oil train derailment, explosive fire, and lake spill in downtown Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, on July 6, 2013 [1 photos, 2-6]. Their successful actions encouraged and enhanced frontline vigilance and resistance to volatile, climate-wrecking oil trains traversing the Idaho Panhandle on Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) and Union Pacific rail lines, from the Alberta tar sands and fracked Bakken shale fields to West Coast refineries, power plants, and ports.

Under rainy skies on Saturday morning, July 9, seven community members attended a social gathering hosted by 350Sandpoint in City Beach Park in Sandpoint. Participants stood around a table under a pavilion tent, networked, and distributed relevant information about climate change issues addressed by various, allied, local groups.  Focused on education, organizers welcomed everyone to suggest public events that they could coordinate.

At Moscow Farmers Market on the same Saturday, Palouse Environmental Sustainability Coalition (PESC) members talked with dozens of visitors of their outreach table at Friendship Square in Moscow, where they circulated fliers about the Lac-Mégantic disaster and displayed a poster with the written memories of local 2103 Tar Sands Healing Walk participants hearing about the tragedy while attending the First Nations ceremonies in Alberta. Moscow activists also gathered signatures for a petition to Governor Otter asking for his support of “all efforts to prevent oil and coal trains from passing through the state of Idaho” for health and safety reasons.

Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) offered a Skyped oil train watch workshop, presented by Matt Landon of Vancouver Action Network in Washington, on Saturday afternoon, July 9, at the East Bonner County Library in Sandpoint. Seven regional citizens learned methods for widespread, track-side monitoring, documenting, and reporting of Northwest oil train passage during Matt’s third interactive training session in the inland Northwest.  Two Occupy activists traveled 75 miles to participate in the workshop, and may provide a fourth session for their Spokane comrades.

To honor the 47 Lac-Mégantic oil train victims, WIRT and 350Sandpoint held a candlelight vigil and march with protest signs through downtown Sandpoint, from Farmin Park to the BNSF rail line near the Amtrak station, on Tuesday evening, July 12. Despite the solemn spirit of the hour-long demonstration, city and railroad police dogged the seven concerned residents of the vulnerable, rural Idaho, oil train corridor throughout the event.  After walking the quiet streets and sharing personal stories and reflections, half of the participants did not finish at the tracks.

350Sandpoint, PESC, and WIRT are deeply grateful for the friends, neighbors, and partner organizations who together contributed their efforts toward the #StopOilTrains in Idaho Week of Action. In appreciation of them, the victims of catastrophic oil train derailments, fires, and spills in Lac-Mégantic Quebec, Mosier Oregon, and dozens of other impacted communities, and the 15,500-plus residents of the mile-wide, Bonner County, Idaho oil train route “blast zones,” we are calling on Idaho government officials to end all coal and oil train transportation through the state [7-10]. Continue reading

8 pm Tuesday, July 12: #StopOilTrains Candlelight Vigil & March in Sandpoint

PLEASE JOIN US on Tuesday, July 12, at 8 pm, starting from the Farmin Park clock in Sandpoint, for a candlelight vigil and march commemorating the 47 lives lost to a fiery oil train derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, on July 6, 2013 [1-3].  Regional climate activist groups Wild Idaho Rising Tide, 350Sandpoint, and allies encourage you and hundreds of concerned area citizens to participate and bring candles (we can provide some), protest signs, ideas for creative street theater, and reports and reflections on life in a vulnerable, rural, Northwest oil train corridor.

“The Week of Action includes events in dozens of cities and towns. In Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, residents gathered on Saturday, July 9, to honor the 47 people who perished in the fire.  ‘These are solemn events,’ says Marilaine Savard, a resident of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.  ‘Once an oil train derails and catches fire, you and your town will never fully recover.’” [4, 5]

In Bonner County, Idaho, over 15,500 people live in oil train “blast zones,” under the increasing threat of potential derailments, spills, explosions, and fires of mile-long crude oil trains hauled by Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad (BNSF) and Union Pacific Railway from the Alberta tar sands and Bakken shale oil fields to Pacific Rim refineries and ports [6-8]. Currently, 8,419 people reside within one half-mile of the tracks, and another 7,087 people live between one half-mile and one mile of the rail lines in the county.  #StopOilTrains in Idaho Week of Action events emphasize and seek to resolve this environmental injustice.

We will report soon on #StopOilTrains Week of Action demonstrations in Lac-Mégantic, the Northwest, and Idaho, as the movement against fossil fuel exacerbation of climate change grows. The Quinault Indian Nation hosted the likely largest anti-oil train gathering during the last week, on Friday, July 8, when more than 600 tribal members, neighbors, and regional allies attended [9].  Together, they boated, marched, and rallied to call on the City of Hoquiam to reject proposed crude oil terminals in Grays Harbor, Washington.

Hoping to see you on Tuesday evening: Thanks! Continue reading

Stop Oil Trains in Idaho Week of Action

Stop Oil Trains in Idaho Week of Action Flyer

Groups stage week of action to #StopOilTrains in Idaho

Continent-wide demonstrations mark three-year anniversary of Lac-Mégantic explosion

North Idaho activists invite the public to join them at four events on July 9 and 12 commemorating the 47 lives lost to a Bakken crude oil train derailment and explosion in downtown Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, on July 6, 2013. During the three years since this tragedy, dozens of similar, fiery accidents have risked and wrecked public and environmental health and safety and the global climate – more than in the previous four decades – including the Union Pacific oil train derailment, spill, and fire in the Columbia River Gorge town of Mosier, Oregon, on June 3, 2016.

In response, Sandpoint and Moscow groups 350Sandpoint, Palouse Environmental Sustainability Coalition, and Wild Idaho Rising Tide are participating with thousands of people across North America in the July 6 to 12 ‪#‎StopOilTrains Week of Action.* Partner organizations providing event support around the continent include, Credo, Sierra Club, Sightline Institute, Oil Change International, and Waterkeeper. Continue reading