Sunday, August 10, Launch & Opposition to Bigge-Haul​ed Calumet Megaload


Late on Thursday morning, August 7, Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) received confirmation from a regional journalist that an overlegal load awaiting transport by Bigge Crane and Rigging Company from the Port of Wilma near Clarkston, Washington, to Great Falls, Montana, may move on Sunday evening, August 10, and successive nights afterwards between 10 pm to 6 am.  As noted by Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) District 1  business manager Scotty Fellom in Coeur d’Alene, ITD public involvement coordinator Adam Rush in Boise said that ITD is preparing and expects to issue a permit and press release on Friday afternoon, leaving little or no time for public and/or legal recourse during normal business hours.

The bottom hydrocracker section would double or triple production of Alberta tar sands crude oil at the Montana Refining Company in Great Falls, Montana, owned by Calumet Specialty Products Partners.  Hauled by several heavy-duty pull and push trucks and interconnected trailers, the entire transport weighs 926,000 pounds and measures 311 feet long, 21 feet wide, and one inch short of 17 feet high, the heaviest and longest load to ever traverse the proposed U.S. Highway 95 and Idaho Highway 200 route in Idaho.  According to two sources, one at the Lewiston ITD office, the two larger and wider parts of the hydrocracker left the Port of Wilma via rail about three weeks ago.  These circumstances lead observers to believe that this shipment is pushing the limits of critical, rural, publicly owned and funded highway and bridge infrastructure.

As exemplified in four years of Wild Idaho Rising Tide and allied resistance to such new fossil fuel infrastructure transported as “megaloads” across four states, WIRT and other concerned groups and citizens oppose this latest onslaught.  In February 2014, we successfully diverted these three loads from Mammoet USA South’s scheme to build a temporary Interstate 90 on-ramp east of Coeur d’Alene, where previous interchange construction had collapsed into Lake Coeur d’Alene, by insisting on full environmental impact statement review of the project.  We will continue to monitor, protest, and petition to halt passage of this Bigge-hauled refinery equipment in Lewiston, Moscow, Plummer, Coeur d’Alene, Sandpoint, Hope, and throughout the region, for myriad, justifiable reasons, including the ones outlined here.

1. Public Participation Averted

Although ITD hosted and/or participated in open house and public meetings in Coeur d’Alene in December 2013 and in Moscow in January 2014, ITD has provided no public participation or education opportunities regarding this gargantuan transport proposal, the first to attempt movement on the U.S. Highway 95 and Idaho Highway 200 route.  May 30 email messages from the ITD Boise and Coeur d’Alene offices to Bigge Crane and Rigging Company stated that, “They [Bigge/Mammoet] will need some public involvement; also they will need Idaho State Police escort in some areas,” and “You will need to work with Jason [Minzghor of ITD District 1] on setting up public meetings, where you will need Idaho State Police, and on contacting ISP to make arrangements for the move” [1].  According to regional journalists and to ITD public records received by WIRT on July 31, the company and perhaps ITD met with city and county officials and police, but never engaged in announced, open public meetings. Continue reading

WIRT Newsletter: Thursday WIRT Planning Potluck, Montana & Sandpoint Megaload Updates


WIRT Potluck/Planning Meeting Every Thursday

Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) would appreciate WIRT activists stepping forward to design direct actions before the next, heaviest and longest megaload ever to traverse northern Idaho’s dilapidated, publicly-owned infrastructure launches from the Port of Wilma near Clarkston, Washington.  Please join us this (and any or every!) Thursday, August 7, at 7 pm at the WIRT Activists House (call 208-301-8039 for directions, if necessary).  We plan to share potluck food and strategize and prepare for tar sands megaload and coal export actions that entail more than just showing up and waving signs.  Please participate in the many necessary roles and work carried forward by the WIRT collective every day!  Through various methods over the next few weeks, we are working to hold state and federal agencies and fossil fuel companies regionally responsible for more transparency, public involvement, and stewardship [1].

Montana Megaload Updates

On Monday afternoon, August 4, one of WIRT’s amazing Montana allies posted a question on the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) website and received this polite and prompt reply: “Thank you for visiting our website and your inquiry concerning Mammoet Company or Bigge Crane and Rigging.  They have been working through the process, and no permits have been issued at this time.”  In his email reply, our friend asked MDT’s Dan Kiely if he could please notify him if MDT grants a permit for this megaload.  He is also keeping his Flathead Reservation tribal council friends and other neighbors apprised of the situation.

During Tuesday morning and Wednesday afternoon, August 5 and 6, the Montana Department of Transportation sent a follow-up note about the planned Calumet tar sands refinery hydrocracker part shipment to the same Montana comrade.  It stated “MDT is planning on issuing a press release prior to any movement in Montana.  Just for a point of clarification, the proposal that is under review only lists U.S. Highway 93 in the Kalispell area.”  Why was MDT so quick to clarify, even without a query [2]?

As suspected and upon further correspondence with MDT to ascertain the latest Montana megaload plan, the agency refers to a proposed Bigge Crane and Rigging transport route, submitted to MDT for review and approval, similar to Mammoet’s April scheme avoiding Montana Highway 200 through the Flathead Reservation.  Instead, the megaload would enter the state from Idaho on Highway 200, then travel on Montana Highway 56 through the beautiful Bull River Valley near the Cabinet Mountains, then move east on U.S. Highway 2 to Kalispell, Montana [3].  The million-plus-pound behemoth would then make a 31-mile, northerly detour around the 14-foot-high railroad overpass above East Idaho Street in Kalispell: North on Route 424 and Highway 93, east on Montana Highway 40 and U.S. Highway 2, then south on Route 206 and Montana Highway 35 to within a few miles of Flathead Lake and the town of Big Fork [See the attached photo: East Idaho Street Kalispell Megaload Obstacle].  It would then invade the wildly scenic Seeley-Swan Valley via Montana Highway 83, to return to eastbound Highway 200 and Great Falls.  To access its Montana Refining Company destination, Bigge would lumber down the Interstate 15 Frontage Road, Northwest Bypass, and the U.S. Highway 87 Bypass/Third Street Northwest in Great Falls. Continue reading

ITD Highway 95 & 200 Megaload Public Records 7-31-14


Bigge Megaload Map 1

Bigge Megaload Map 2

Wild Idaho Rising Tide will post more of the most pertinent Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) public records about a proposed hydrocracker section transport up U.S. Highway 95 and Idaho Highway 200, en route to the Calumet Great Falls, Montana, tar sands refinery, as we scrutinize and sort about 100 documents received on July 31, 2014.

Bigge Idaho Route Plan Draft 2 (May 29, 2014)

Bigge Transportation Plan – Revision 1 (May 29, 2014)

Mammoet Megaload Permit 7-27-14 (July 27 to 31, 2014)

Pertinent ITD Email Messages (May 30 to July 21, 2014)

Bigge Montana Transportation Plan (August 15, 2014)

Bigge Montana Traffic Control Plan (August 15, 2014)

Bigge Stages the Last Calumet Megaload


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Bigge Stages the Last Calumet Megaload 7-24-14 (Wild Idaho Rising Tide photos)

On Thursday, July 24, two Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) activists scouted the Port of Wilma, across the Snake River from Clarkston, Washington, to document with photos and ascertain any changes at the fenced compound where Bigge Crane and Rigging stores the last of three rusty, cylindrical, hydrocracker sections stranded since mid-December 2013.  Participants in the Nez Perce Environmental Summit on Saturday, July 19, discovered the two other, larger, megaload parts vanished, with crews still in the port lot leased by Omega Morgan in late 2013, for its two massive evaporator cargoes [1].  Last observed on short, 12-axle trailers at the port on Tuesday, July 15, the two heavier, missing loads, 573,000 and 661,000 pounds each, likely departed by barge downriver or by train on the Watco Companies Great Northwest Railroad to the Tri-Cities, Washington [2].  According to late-May newspaper articles that suggested megaload rail travel, haulers could have transported the shipments on Schnabel train cars as oncoming traffic to potentially explosive, West Coast-bound, unit “bomb trains” of fracked Bakken shale oil.  The behemoths could currently be moving across eastern Washington and northern Idaho on either Union Pacific or Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail lines to Bonners Ferry, Idaho, then eastward on the BNSF railroad to a spur line heading south from Shelby to the Montana Refining Company in Great Falls.  The hydrocracker column formed by stacking the three purportedly irreducible components upright constitutes equipment essential to tripling Calumet Specialty Products Partners’ refinery production of Alberta tar sands, Bow River crude, and Bakken shale oil.

Activists noticed on July 19 that heavy hauler Bigge had left a white and red crane, a heavy-duty, white semi-truck, a small, orange truck, several flatbed trailers, and some white trailer pieces resembling the steel suspension systems seen around other, huge, fossil fuel contraptions in the region since February 2011.  The San Leandro, California-based company also abandoned the 504,000-pound, lightest, bottom part of the hydrocracker.  Its largest diameter of the three modules may have deterred its passage by train through tunnels, close, two-way tracks, or other rail line impediments, while its weight and length, when combined with interlocked trailers and trucks, could forebode the heaviest and longest megaload to ever traverse rural northern Idaho highway routes.  On Thursday evening, July 24, WIRT comrades saw additional Bigge gear that alerted them to imminent megaload movement, perhaps within a week.  A second, white semi-truck occupied the southwestern corner of the lot, while the orange truck, previously parked next to the hydrocracker piece, sat behind it, attached to the white trailer.  Absent during prior scouting forays, long, dark-blue, trailer sections loomed in front of the module, and a colossal, dark-blue, metal bar on a specialized semi-trailer, like the top of megaload lifts seen at the Ports of Pasco and Umatilla, crowded the eastern pavement outside the fence, along with a uniformed security guard in an older, white and red pickup truck. Continue reading

Refinery Says Megaloads to Go by Rail


But Calumet official won’t disclose when heavy machinery will leave Port of Wilma for Montana

Two of the three megaloads bound for a Calumet refinery in Great Falls, Montana, will leave the Port of Wilma by rail, not truck.

Exactly when the shipments will depart the Port of Wilma is not being disclosed, said company spokesman Noel Ryan.

Calumet will provide an update on the Great Falls project, which is doubling the capacity of the refinery, in its quarterly earnings report in early August.  Ryan said the company will not get into the details of how the machinery at the Port of Wilma is being transported.

Ryan’s statements came after days of heavy speculation by megaload opponents that two pieces of the equipment have left the port.  The machinery is so large that it would take up two lanes of highway, if it went by road.

The crude unit and hydrocracker that were taken to the Port of Wilma are key components in the expansion of the refinery, and Ryan said they will separate crude oil into products such as gasoline, diesel, and asphalt. Continue reading

Calumet Megaloads Depart the Port of Wilma


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Calumet Megaloads Depart the Port of Wilma 7-19-14 (July 19, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide photos)

According to at least four Saturday, July 19, Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) eyewitnesses, two of the three Calumet tar sands refinery hydrocracker sections stranded at the Port of Wilma, Washington, since mid-December 2013 have vanished [1].  During the week of July 20, Bigge Crane and Rigging of San Leandro, California, is likely hauling these megaloads via river, rail, or road, from the port on the Snake River near Clarkston to the Montana Refining Company in Great Falls.  Last observed and described (but not documented with photos?) on short, heavy-duty, 12-axle trailers at the port on Tuesday, July 15, the loads were missing when a Saturday morning scout noticed crews still in the port lot previously leased for storage and staging of Omega Morgan “water filtration units.”  Questions about whether the hydrocracker parts departed by barge or rail downriver still linger, but after only a few days of travel, these megaloads may not have gone far.

In the fenced port compound, Bigge left white trailer pieces resembling the steel suspension systems seen around other huge fossil fuel extraction contraptions in the region since February 2011.  The company also abandoned the half-million-pound, lightest weight piece of the hydrocracker, the bottom part of the column formed by stacking the three components upright.  Its largest diameter, not weight, may have proved the critical factor restricting its passage by train through tunnels, close bi-directional tracks, or other rail line impediments [2].  Megaload owners and haulers cannot further downsize the three rusty, cylindrical sections and, as announced by late-May newspaper accounts, are probably shipping them to a trans-loading facility for transport on Schnabel train cars [3].  They could be moving the megaloads to the Port of Umatilla on the Oregon side of the Columbia River and attempting the previously permitted eastern Oregon, southern Idaho, and western Montana heavy-haul route pummeled by three almost-as-massive Omega Morgan loads last winter, especially while forest fires close eastern Oregon rural routes. Continue reading

March 2014 Highway 95 Mammoet Megaload Updates


Issue Background

Dutch heavy hauling company Mammoet plans to move three 1.6-million-pound industrial shipments, measuring 441 feet long, 27 feet wide, and 16 feet high, from the Port of Wilma, Washington, near Lewiston, Idaho, to the Calumet-owned Montana Refining Company in Great Falls, Montana [1-4]. At this closest U.S. refinery to Alberta tar sands mining operations, these megaloads would contribute to tripling refinery conversion of 10,000 barrels per day of Canadian tar sands crude into Rockies transportation fuels. These pieces of a desulfurization reactor, a “hydrocracker,” would travel through Moscow, Plummer and Worley on the Coeur d’Alene Tribe Reservation, Coeur d’Alene, and perhaps Sandpoint before entering Montana [5, 6]. They would traverse 20th Street in Lewiston to avoid the rock face where Highways 12 and 128 intersect, and would only cross Moscow between 11 pm and 1 am on Sunday through Thursday, requiring removal of street light poles at the Washington Street curve, where the sidewalk would be closed between First and C Streets.

Since first public notice on December 13, 2013 – six weeks after initial Mammoet project proposal to the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) and after November 26 rejection by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) – until late February 2014, Mammoet intended to traverse Highway 95 and Interstate 90, exit at Sherman Avenue, and take East Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive for 5.5 miles, to detour around the Veterans Memorial (Bennett Bay) Bridge, a span too tall and long to withstand these megaload weights [7-9]. At an Interstate 90 interchange at the end of the drive near Higgens Point, previously abandoned when the ground collapsed under earth movers during construction, the behemoths would cross under the freeway and mount a temporary, gravel on-ramp between two wetlands. The colossal shipments would access the westbound interstate lanes while traveling east for a short distance, before crossing to the eastbound lanes and over the 1319-foot-long Blue Creek Bay Bridge built in 1951, and then driving off the highway between Pinehurst and Smelterville. Between mid-January and mid-February, the ITD District 1 office in Coeur d’Alene and FHWA personnel in Boise exchanged and revised various documents including a draft environmental evaluation based on a categorical exclusion, per National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements [10, 11]. Without FHWA review and approval of this transportation project, called the Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive Temporary Overweight Truck Route, Mammoet and ITD could not construct the likely reusable “temporary” Interstate 90 on-ramp, which would accommodate megaload passage while endangering natural resources and public infrastructure.

On February 6, 2014, a day after final ITD documents submittal to FHWA, five regional conservation- and climate change-oriented groups including WIRT co-wrote and sent a letter of concern about these proposed Mammoet megaloads to FHWA, ITD, and other responsible city, county, state, and federal representatives and transportation, wildlife, and environmental agencies [12]. Wild Idaho Rising Tide, Spokane Rising Tide, Kootenai Environmental Alliance (KEA), Friends of the Clearwater, and Palouse Environmental Sustainability Coalition (PESC) strongly recommended that these agencies “better consider and act to prevent the implications of this proposed Mammoet move and on-ramp construction for air and water quality, wildlife and habitats, the regional environment and inhabitants, and global climate.” The grassroots organizations formally requested that the appropriate cooperating agencies comply with NEPA mandates, extend and expand their project review and public involvement processes and periods, and delay and deny project approval based on further analysis. Continue reading

Mammoet Megaloads Public Records 3-24-14


Selected, incomplete but ongoing posts of 95 public documents belatedly provided by the Idaho Transportation Department District 1 (Coeur d’Alene), in response to Wild Idaho Rising Tide’s third public records request for information and communication about Mammoet USA South’s proposed 2014 transport of three 1.6-million-pound megaloads on U.S. Highway 95 and Interstate 90 or Idaho Highway 200 to a Great Falls, Montana, tar sands refinery tripling its production:

Calumet Refinery CH2M Hill Great Falls Traffic Plan US95 HWY200

CDA Lake Drive Truck Route Draft Environmental Evaluation 1-9-14

FHWA Decision about CDA Temporary Truck Route 2-13-14

FHWA Letter about Mammoet Oversize Loads 11-26-13

Letter from Doug Ball SCRA

Pinehurst to Smelterville Route Revision

Re-Route Shoshone County

Transport Plan 3-18-14