Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) and allied, #No2ndBridge 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 fuel and railroad industry degraders of basic, global, human, environmental, and climate health and rights. Interior Northwest residents are organizing and co-hosting fourth annual, Panhandle Paddle activities, to stand against Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway’s (BNSF) proposed bridge and track construction across Lake Pend Oreille, Sand Creek, and Sandpoint, and regional trains hauling volatile, Alberta tar sands, fracked, Bakken crude oil, dusty, Powder River Basin coal, and other hazardous materials that recklessly endanger our lives, communities, lands, water, air, and climate. This fossil fuel infrastructure use, expansion, and deterioration has resulted in multiple, recent, train derailments and collisions in north Idaho, northwest Montana, and beyond, including disastrous, coal and oil train wrecks, spills, fires, and pollution of the Clark Fork River near Heron, Montana, and the Columbia River Gorge in Mosier, Oregon. Please join us at these annual, Panhandle Paddle events at the Gardenia Center, City Beach Park, and Dog Beach Park in Sandpoint, Idaho, on September 7 to 9! Continue reading
On Tuesday, August 7, Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) filed pro se (without attorney representation again) a request for an extension of at least 14 days to file an amended notice of appeal of the Idaho Department of Lands’ (IDL) June 21 final order approving an encroachment permit for Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway’s (BNSF) Sandpoint Junction Connector application to build two temporary work spans and two permanent railroad bridges in Lake Pend Oreille and Sand Creek. The extension request also covers filing a petition for judicial review by the Idaho First District Court in Bonner County, of the entire, almost 1000-page, public record culminating in the state permit decision, based on the preliminary and final orders of Idaho Board of Land Commissioners hearing officer Chris Bromley and IDL director David Groeschl, the lawsuit defendants.
As one of 21 testifiers who spoke against the BNSF expansion project, besides ten who supported it, at the IDL/Idaho Land Board, administrative hearings on May 23, 2018, in Ponderay and Sandpoint, Helen Yost filed the original notice of appeal and request for judicial review, and posted a $500 bond on behalf of WIRT on July 20, within 30 days of Director Groeschl’s final order, as prompted by its concluding legal notification. Four additional testifiers opposing rail bridge construction have since expressed interest in tentatively joining the appeal as plaintiffs.
But in a July 25 notice of proposed case dismissal and an order striking the notice of appeal on technical grounds, District Judge Barbara Buchanan addresses “several problems with this notice of appeal.” She explains that the document “does not contain all of the information required by…Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 84,” including more precise statements about state agency action titles, dates, records, hearings, oral presentations, and transcripts and appeal notification of defendants. Thus, “it is not clear exactly which decision…that this Court is being asked to review.” Judge Buchanan also indicates that, “under Idaho law, ‘a business entity … must be represented by a licensed attorney before an administrative body or a judicial body,’” and that any court documents from gratefully unincorporated, activist collective WIRT “must be filed by an attorney authorized to practice law in Idaho.”
While “diligently searching for the assistance and legal services of an attorney” within our Northwest network, to “obtain obviously required counsel for this matter,” WIRT hand-delivered the extension request within the 14 days provided to respond to Judge Buchanan’s notice of proposed case dismissal and order striking the notice of appeal. Noting that “preparation of the detailed, amended appeal will require substantial time among [an attorney’s] current caseload and other court deadlines, especially considering the complex and technical nature of some of the record documents,…we acknowledge and plan to remedy the problems resulting from pro se filing of the initial notice of appeal.” Voicing appreciation and respect for attorneys’ “knowledge of Idaho legal proceedings, relevant laws, and court document drafting requirements,” we confirm that “an extension of time granted by the District Court…would offer opportunities to share information with legal counsel and to clarify…which proceedings, hearings, and decisions we are asking the Court to review.”
Second Annual Remember the Water Canoe Journey
The River Warrior Society, Kalispel tribal members, and regional canoe families are hosting the Remember the Water canoe journey again this summer, paddling traditional, wooden canoes 71 miles on Pend Oreille Lake and River, from the Hope peninsula, Idaho, to the Kalispel village north of Usk, Washington [1-3]. Tentatively meeting on Tuesday, July 31, at Sam Owen Campground near Hope, participants will discuss water, wind, and wave temperature and speed and other conditions on the lake. The journey will put-in at Denton Slough on Wednesday, August 1, after prayers and smudging the canoes at 8 am. Approximately nine miles into their first, 20-mile day, paddlers will stop for a lunch break at Trestle Creek.
The journey plans to land at City Beach Park in Sandpoint at 3 pm or later on Wednesday afternoon, August 1, although its timing is difficult, having never previously covered this stretch of Lake Pend Oreille. The canoeists welcome everyone and groups like Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper and Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) to greet their arrival and take-out, among possible song and prayer. Please join us for this significant event, and for canoe smudging, prayers, send-off, and re-launch from the City Beach boat ramps, at 8 am on Thursday, August 2.
Indigenous and accompanying paddlers will continue downriver 21 miles, from Sandpoint to the next, Thursday night layover on Kalispel tribal lands, at the Carey Creek Game Management Area off Dufort Road, near Priest River, Idaho. The voyage has also scheduled a Friday, August 3, lunch break in the Newport, Washington area, next to the Rotary Park boat launch by the river bridge, in Oldtown, Idaho. The 17-mile, Friday paddle concludes at Downs Island, just upriver of Indian Island, near the Sandy Shores boat launch.
On Saturday, August 4, after breakfast, canoe smudges, and prayer at 8 am, the canoe journey will travel 14 miles from Downs Island, breaking at the Usk boat launch under the bridge, and reaching the Kalispel village boat launch and yearly Kalispel Tribe Pow Wow. The destination offers buffalo burgers, camping, and Wellness Center showers.
WIRT activists are grateful for the Remember the Water canoe journey, as we resist reckless railroad coal pollution, potential oil spills, and proposed bridge construction in the life-giving waters of Lake Pend Oreille. Please contact River Warrior Society organizer Nathan Piengkham at firstname.lastname@example.org, for finalized event itineraries.
Spotlight Messaging at the Festival at Sandpoint
As the sun sets over Sandpoint, Idaho, between 8 and 9 pm on Friday, August 3, Occupy comrades from Spokane, Washington, will graciously offer a brief, light projection display of social and climate justice messages on tall structures around the Festival at Sandpoint. Meet in or near Lakeview Park, wherever you see this light show, for discussions among curious passersby, about #No2ndBridge and Northwest coal and oil train and terminal issues.
#No2ndBridge State Permit Appeal Participation
Unwilling to miss the Friday, July 20, deadline for challenging a state permit, Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) filed pro se (without attorney representation) a notice of appeal in Idaho’s First District Court, of the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) encroachment permit granted to Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF) for its proposed rail bridge and track expansion across Lake Pend Oreille and Sandpoint, the “Sandpoint Junction Connector” project [4-9].
The 12-page appeal calls for a judicial review of the permit’s issuance and public record, considering the Lake Protection Act and other state and federal laws. It argues that the project jeopardizes water resources, air quality, wildlife habitat, indigenous rights, health and safety, navigation, tourism, and recreation, and would increase noise, pollution, and potential accidents and derailments of fossil fuels and hazardous materials trains. The petition also states that the project would increase chemical pollution of Idaho’s largest, deepest lake, the drinking water source for over 10,000 people in the Sandpoint and north Idaho area. Continue reading
On July 20, 2018, Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) filed a notice of appeal of the preliminary and final orders approving Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway’s (BNSF) application for an encroachment permit for its proposed Sandpoint Junction Connector Project. David Groeschl, acting director of the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) in Boise, granted the five-year encroachment permit on June 21, 2018. BNSF plans to construct 2.2 miles of doubled tracks, two temporary, work spans, and three permanent, parallel bridges adjacent to the existing rail route across Lake Pend Oreille, Sand Creek, Bridge Street, and downtown Sandpoint, Idaho.
As aggrieved parties who spoke at two public, administrative hearings held before hearing officer/coordinator Chris Bromley for the Idaho Board of Land Commissioners, on May 23, 2018, in Ponderay and Sandpoint, Idaho, WIRT activists filed the 11-page appeal in the First Judicial District Court of Idaho in Bonner County. Prompted by the legal notification concluding the final order, the climate activist collective requested rigorous reviews and analyses by the district court “of the entire record, proceedings, findings of fact, conclusions of law, preliminary order, and final order of this application, [hearing] case, and permit,” including approximately 1,100 written comments and dozens of oral testimonies. WIRT invites other hearing participants harmed by this permit decision to join the appeal, as “plaintiffs, testifiers, witnesses, and amicus partners” calling for “appropriate revision, denial, and/or revocation of the negligent and culpable, BNSF Sandpoint Junction Connector Project application and permit.”
The appeal challenges several errors of the final order, most notably its failures to uphold the state Lake Protection Act and Rules for the Regulation of Beds, Waters, and Airspace over Navigable Lakes. Both mandate regulators to “give due consideration and weigh…the protection of property, navigation, fish and wildlife habitat, aquatic life, recreation, aesthetic beauty, and water quality” against the economic necessity, justification, or benefit derived from any proposed encroachment on, in, or above navigable lake beds or waters. Although “public health, interest, safety, and welfare require” this balance, WIRT activists argue that Idaho officials inadequately examined and compared these “lake values” with project outcomes, discussing environmental concerns offered by individuals and agencies in only two of 42 pages of their permit decision.
The plaintiffs question the legality of sidestepping these stricter state regulations, in deference to an antiquated, U.S., railroad land grant law and hundreds of pro-project, BNSF, form letters from out-of-state commenters. The 1864 act gives railroad companies unusual power to retain exclusive possession and “complete dominion” over their 400-foot-wide, privately owned route “adjacent to and crossing Lake Pend Oreille,” since before 1890 statehood. IDL director Groeschl asserts that his final order must only “recognize BNSF’s right to utilize the right-of-way for construction of a railroad bridge and associated fill,” thus dismissing his obligations to the environmental and economic wellbeing and public trust of the Idaho Panhandle community, in preference for the railroad pursuit of profit.
In their lawsuit, WIRT activists also cite examples of BNSF application errors and admitted project impacts to an endangered species and other public interests. Accordingly, they dispute BNSF encroachment permit approval prior to any application modifications or amendments required by IDL, and before the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (IDEQ) issues, waives, or denies Clean Water Act-mandated, final, water quality certification and associated restrictions on BNSF plans. The appeal filers ask the Bonner County District Court “to defer to pending, state and federal, public participation processes and agency decisions resulting from environmental reviews, assessments, and/or impact statements and studies of this project that still requires…dredge, fill, and wetland impact approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and bridge permits from the lead, federal agency, the U.S. Coast Guard.” Continue reading
Wednesday, July 18, 7 pm, Sandpoint
WIRT & #No2ndBridge Meeting & Petition
Since two public hearings in Ponderay and Sandpoint on May 23, and two Second Lake Rail Bridge Discussions in Moscow and Sandpoint during June 2018, the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) issued a final order on Thursday, June 21, approving Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway’s encroachment permit application for its proposed Sandpoint Junction Connector project . As explained in WIRT’s initial, draft analysis of the decision, IDL has deferred to antiquated, railroad land grant laws and 1000-plus pro-second bridge, BNSF, form letters . Still requiring Clean Water Act water quality certification from the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, dredge and fill approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and bridge permits from the lead, federal agency, the U.S. Coast Guard, BNSF plans to build two miles of doubled tracks, two temporary, work spans, and three permanent, parallel bridges west of existing rail infrastructure across Lake Pend Oreille, Sand Creek, Bridge Street, and downtown Sandpoint.
Grassroots, #No2ndBridge, and Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) activists are concerned about this near-conclusion of the state permitting process, and believe that our community should protect Lake Pend Oreille from this Northwest fossil fuels pipeline-on-wheels expansion, by resisting every advance of this proposal. Its construction could drill 1000 piles into train-spewed, lakebed, coal and other deposits in BNSF’s private right-of-way, releasing more pollution into regional, lake and aquifer, drinking water. North Idaho groups and governments with greater capacity and non-profit status to litigate will probably not challenge dismissal by IDL and other state agencies of myriad, local concerns over significant, project impacts. But we intend to dispute this permit through both conservative, Idaho courts and creative, frontline resistance, and are searching for attorney assistance around the IDL permit appeal filing deadline of Friday, July 20 .
Please participate in the third-Wednesday, monthly, WIRT, and #No2ndBridge meeting at 7 pm on Wednesday, July 18, at the Gardenia Center, 400 Church Street in Sandpoint. Event hosts invite everyone to bring and share snacks, refreshments, donations, and suggestions and referrals to lawyers who practice in Idaho and could advise or represent us before and after filing pro se in Bonner County district court. We also ask that you print and circulate the accompanying, double-sided, informal #No2ndBridge Petition, and return it, filled with signatures, to WIRT at public events and farmers market outreach tables in Sandpoint and Moscow, on Saturdays throughout the season, where we hope to talk with you and provide printed material about this critical situation.
Visit the WIRT facebook and website pages for further, issue, and event updates and contact information for state and federal agencies reviewing BNSF applications and deliberating permit decisions. Request that local, state, and federal, elected, appointed, and agency officials conduct rigorous reviews and analyses of this north Idaho, railroad ‘funnel’ expansion, including federal, environmental impact studies and statements, and denounce, deny, and revoke all permits for this negligent and culpable project. Continue reading
Region-wide events mark the five-year Lac-Mégantic disaster anniversary
North Idaho and eastern Washington activists invite everyone to participate in five Stop Oil Trains in Idaho events on July 5, 6, and 7, commemorating the 47 lives lost to a Bakken crude oil train derailment, spill, explosion, and fire in downtown Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, on Saturday night, July 6, 2013. During the five years since this tragedy, dozens of similar accidents have wrecked public and environmental health and safety and the global climate – more than in the previous four decades – including the Union Pacific oil train disaster in the Columbia River Gorge town of Mosier, Oregon, on June 3, 2016. In response, Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT), 350Seattle, Occupy, Palouse Environmental Sustainability Coalition, and allied Moscow, Sandpoint, and Spokane partner groups have participated with thousands of people around North America in Stop Oil Trains actions [1-4].
Through multiple training, protest, and outreach events, concerned citizens continue to actively oppose and call for an end to all Alberta tar sands and Bakken shale oil exploitation and train and pipeline transportation, refusing to let Big Oil threaten and risk our families, friends, homes, businesses, lands, waters, and air. Together with environmental and social justice activists across the U.S. and Canada, we are organizing various tactics and resources to stage powerful, effective actions defending and protecting frontline, rail corridor communities and the global climate.
Please join these demonstrations and/or host or attend an event in your vicinity around July 6, to stand in solidarity with Lac-Mégantic and other towns and cities demanding an immediate ban on the railroad industry’s extreme energy pipeline-on-wheels. Thanks to everyone who has provided invaluable, relevant ideas, connections, and on-the-ground support for these events. We welcome your questions, suggestions, assistance, and refreshments at these upcoming actions: Please reply through the enclosed contact channels or on-site. Expect ongoing descriptions of Northwest train and terminal issue background and recent updates, via WIRT facebook and website pages. Continue reading
At 7 pm on Wednesday, June 20, please join #No2ndBridge and Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) activists and concerned, community members for refreshments and a Second Lake Rail Bridge Discussion and slideshow presentation, at the Gardenia Center, 400 Church Street in Sandpoint. Event hosts of this free, open meeting invite participants to bring and share snacks, stories, images, and donations, and learn about the natural and human environment of Lake Pend Oreille, the ongoing and potential traffic, pollution, and derailment dangers of fossil fuel and hazardous freight trains, and the flawed infrastructure, earthquake resilience, and emergency response capacity of the north Idaho, railroad ‘funnel.’
Together, we plan to explore and consider the significant impacts of Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway’s Sandpoint Junction Connector proposal to construct two temporary and three permanent, parallel bridges and two miles of doubled tracks across the lake, Sand Creek, and Sandpoint. The project would affect regional, lake and aquifer water resources, air quality, noise, public and environmental health and safety, indigenous rights, wildlife, fish, and threatened bull trout and their habitat, wetlands and shorelines, historic sites, vehicle passage, boat navigation, recreation and tourism, businesses and residences, and other, public interest factors.
For further event information and issue updates, please visit the WIRT facebook and website pages and outreach tables at Sandpoint and Moscow farmers markets and public events during the emerging season, contact us with your concerns, and print and post the accompanying flyer. We hope to talk with you and provide printed material about this critical situation on all of these occasions! Ask the state and federal agencies reviewing BNSF applications and deliberating permit decisions to fully analyze this railroad expansion with an environmental impact study and statement, as requested by the Sandpoint city council and mayor. Thanks! #No2ndBridge!
At 7 pm on Friday, June 8, please join Palouse Environmental Sustainability Coalition (PESC), Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT), and concerned community members and activists for refreshments, an open meeting, and a slideshow presentation about Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway plans to construct two temporary and three permanent, parallel bridges and two miles of doubled tracks across Lake Pend Oreille, Sand Creek, and Sandpoint, Idaho. PESC and WIRT event hosts will provide snacks, offer printed material, and accept admission donations at this free event that opens at 6:30 pm, at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Palouse, 420 East Second Street in Moscow.
Through images and stories, learn about the ongoing and potential, significant impacts of north Idaho, railroad ‘funnel’ infrastructure, transportation, and expansion on regional, lake and aquifer water supplies, air quality, noise, public and environmental health and safety, threatened bull trout and fish and wildlife habitat, wetlands and shorelines, indigenous rights, historic sites, fossil fuel trains and pollution, derailment hazards, emergency responses, vehicle traffic, boat navigation, recreation and tourism, businesses and residences, and other relevant, public interest factors. Consider how you can participate in state and federal reviews and permit decisions on BNSF applications for the proposed Sandpoint Junction Connector project, ideally analyzed through an environmental impact statement, as requested by the City of Sandpoint.
For further event and issue information, please print, post, and share the accompanying, PDF flyer, check for updates on WIRT facebook and website pages, and visit the PESC and WIRT outreach tables at Moscow Farmers Market on Saturday, June 9, and at the Farmers Markets in Sandpoint and Moscow throughout the season. We hope to talk with you about this critical situation at all these events!
For decades, the Sandpoint to Spokane, railroad “funnel” community, who cherishes and relies on the clean water, air, and lands of beautiful Lake Pend Oreille and north Idaho for our shared economy and life ways, has endured the ongoing dangers and pollution of Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway. The company hauls 95 percent of the volatile, fracked, Bakken crude oil, all of the heavy metal-laden, Powder River Basin coal, and many other toxic substances through the region, via its Northwest pipeline-on-wheels. It spews coal dust and diesel emissions, risks and degrades the health and safety of resident and visiting people and wildlife with pollution, noise, hazardous materials transport, derailments, and accidents, including three wrecked, coal and corn trains within 33 miles of Sandpoint, between March and August 2017, and dozens of injuries and deaths of pedestrians, family pets, and vehicle drivers and passengers over the last 20 years. Meanwhile, BNSF coerces local, state, and national citizens, elected officials, and emergency and regulatory agencies to accept and promote these escalating abuses of discounted, rural and urban, rail-line communities, advocating the consumer complicity and corporate conquests that drive gratuitous, unjust, global capitalism, basic human rights violations, and climate change.
While BNSF questionably boasts about its local jobs and monetary incentives, interstate commerce rules ensure that Idaho receives no state taxes from transiting trains. Compared to the origins and destinations of rail freight, remote north Idaho gains much less railroad revenue and employment, and supports fewer state track inspectors and emergency response personnel and equipment. But like all greedy industrialists, BNSF now wants even more plunder for profit, in spite of the price already paid by people and the planet for its perpetually reinforcing, increasingly destructive expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure and invasion of our natural habitat. BNSF is planning to double two miles of tracks through Sandpoint, in close proximity to small, downtown businesses and the historic railroad station still used by Amtrak, and build two temporary, construction spans and three permanent, parallel bridges across the Bridge Street access to popular City Beach Park, over the Sand Creek outlet for stream flow, boat launches, and marinas to Lake Pend Oreille, and almost a mile and 1000 piles across Idaho’s largest lake, the fifth deepest in the United States.
Apparently attempting to avoid, minimize, and expedite required, state and federal permitting and public notice and participation processes for this $100 million-plus, three- to five-year construction project, BNSF nominally postponed its Sandpoint Junction Connector project for three years, then visibly staged equipment and drilled and tested two piles for their bridge load bearing capacity and “done deal” public perception, at Dog Beach Park south of Sandpoint during summer 2017. Beyond its 250-page, joint permit application, full of engineering diagrams and lingo and inadequate, biological assessments, BNSF has yet to provide any unbiased, independent studies or reports describing and thoroughly analyzing not only the purported, public benefits of increased railroad infrastructure and traffic but also their potential, significant, adverse impacts on environmental quality, endangered species, regional safety, emergency response, vehicle traffic flow, noise and pollution levels, recreational experiences, tourism businesses, economic opportunities, and critical, lake and aquifer water resources.
Please join Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) and #No2ndBridge allies in halting BNSF’s track and bridge expansion proposal: We need everyone on this frontline! Bring your best ideas, energies, comrades, and protest signs to a community resistance rally, with speakers and drummers at 5 pm on Wednesday, May 23, at the intersection of South Division Avenue and U.S. Highway 2 in Sandpoint. Attend and testify at one or both Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) hearings on the same day, at 8 am PDT in Suite E of the Ponderay Events Center, 401 Bonner Mall Way in Ponderay, and at 6 pm PDT in the Sandpoint Middle School gymnasium, 310 South Division Avenue in Sandpoint. Reasonably demand that IDL and the U.S. Coast Guard (USGC), who will also take public comments at these state meetings, respectively deny permits for lakebed encroachments, like temporary and permanent bridge piles, and for bridges across Sand Creek and Lake Pend Oreille. Continue reading
Article forthcoming on May 22, condensed from 30 pages of notes…