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Posts tagged: megaloads

Catching up on the news…

Catching up from the past week’s news while I was gone:

There was a major development in the race for state Superintendent of Schools, as the Idaho Association of School Administrators invited both candidates to speak and answer questions at a high-profile forum at its annual conference in Boise last Monday. Democratic nominee Jana Jones spoke and answered questions from the 460 school administrators in attendance, but GOP nominee Sherri Ybarra declined the invitation. During the conference, Idaho EdNews reporter Clark Corbin spotted Ybarra in the same downtown Boise neighborhood having coffee; she told Corbin she was waiting to meet with a Republican legislator and her schedule was too busy to attend the IASA conference; you can read his Monday report here, which includes reporting on Jones’ call at the conference for building a new education coalition.

Two days later, Ybarra issued a press release criticizing the Idaho EdNews story, saying she planned to attend the IASA conference as a participant later in the week. She also met with reporters and said a doctor’s appointment was among her schedule conflicts on Monday, and announced that 10 GOP lawmakers and a group of educators had endorsed her but said she wouldn’t immediately name them. There’s more on that herehere and here.

Meanwhile, this year’s Idaho Superintendent of the Year Chuck Shackett, a high-profile supporter of the voter-rejected “Students Come First” school reform laws - which Jones strongly opposed - and prominent Republican, endorsed Jones. “I trust Jana completely,” Shackett said Tuesday, hours after he was honored as superintendent of the year; he noted that when Jones, former chief deputy state superintendent, left the State Department of Education, he tried to hire her to head the Bonneville School District’s special education programs.

In other news last week, data released Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis showed that Idaho residents have among the lowest personal incomes in the nation but spend a higher percentage of their money on food, housing and other essentials. AP reporter Rebecca Boone reported that Idahoans had to spend more than 43 percent of their income on the basics; only Mississippi was higher. You can read her full report here.

Former longtime Idaho Statesman political columnist and reporter Dan Popkey talked with Boise State Public Radio on why he made the switch to become 1st District GOP Rep. Raul Labrador's new press secretary; his interview with BSPR's Scott Graf is online here.

Severe thunderstorms on Wednesday caused large amounts of sediment to flow into the South Fork of the Salmon River, killing 1,200 adult Chinook salmon at an Idaho Fish & Game trapping facility and also killing some Chinook in the river; about 200 adult Chinook were saved and transferred to a hatchery near Riggins. Because summer Chinook run in a four-year cycle, the kill is expected to result in significantly fewer of the fish returning to the South Fork in 2018.

And the Idaho Transportation Department on Friday issued a permit to Bigge Crane for a giant megaload of equipment bound for a Great Falls, Mont. oil refinery to travel up Highway 95 and across the Long Bridge to Sandpoint in North Idaho; it’s expected to reach Sandpoint around the middle of this week. Originally, the load was proposed to be hauled along Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive en route to Montana by Mammoet, but the need for a federal environmental assessment derailed that plan; the equipment, already shipped to the Port of Wilma, then was cut into three parts, with two of them shipped by rail. The third, which is 21 feet wide, 16 feet 8 inches high and 311 feet long, weighs up to 1.086 million pounds; ITD says it will travel between 10 p.m. and 5:30 a.m.

Groups negotiating to end megaloads lawsuit

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho Rivers United and the Nez Perce Tribe are in mediation with the U.S. Forest Service to end a lawsuit concerning megaloads on U.S. Highway 12 in northern Idaho. Kevin Lewis of Idaho Rivers United said Wednesday the groups are seeking to have the federal agency come up with specific rules concerning gigantic loads traveling on the northern Idaho route that includes a federally designated Wild and Scenic River corridor as well as tribal land. The groups sued the Forest Service last year, and U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill in September granted a preliminary injunction halting shipments. His ruling required the Forest Service to conduct a corridor review, and the agency on Monday released a document attempting to assess impacts the giant loads have passing through the rugged area.

Click below for a full report from AP reporter Keith Ridler.

Firm that had sought to run Korean-made megaloads through Idaho now buying locally in Canada instead

A New Yorker article out today on the saga of the Highway 12 megaloads in Idaho, headlined, “Another Oil-Sands Challenge: Transporting Equipment,” has an interesting note in it: Writer Michael Ames reports that Imperial Oil, the Exxon-Mobil affiliate that unsuccessfully sought to move 200-plus megaloads of Korean-made oil field equipment over the scenic Idaho river corridor en route to the Canadian oil sands, is now ordering equipment that’s manufactured in Alberta instead.

Ames writes that by February of 2013, after legal battles and rerouted loads, Imperial was 61 percent over budget for the first phase of its oil-sands development. “From now on, Imperial is ordering its heavy processing equipment from Canadian manufacturers,” he reports, quoting company spokesman Pius Rolheiser saying that the Highway 12 quagmire “was a significant factor in our decision not to procure modules from outside Alberta.”

Montana-bound megaloads would use part of interchange ITD abandoned after ‘90s disaster

At the east end of Coeur d’Alene, bald eagles swoop and dive over the lake as excited onlookers snap pictures or watch with spotting scopes, and others stroll by on the Centennial Trail with their dogs, enjoying the winter wildlife show. This is where a temporary onramp will be constructed to allow three giant, Montana-bound megaloads of oil refinery equipment to complete their roundabout journey through the area in January and February and trundle back onto Interstate 90 on the far side of the tall stretch of Veterans Memorial Bridge.

On Thursday night, more than 50 people turned out for a public meeting about the hauls, with questions about everything from fisheries to safety; you can read my full story here at The area around the onramp site, at Higgens Point, is both an environmental treasure for the community and the site of an infamous environmental failure for ITD. In the early 1990s, ITD was attempting to build an interchange there when a huge landslide sent two pieces of heavy earth-moving equipment and tons of gravel into the lake, right where kokanee spawn. As part of its penalties, to mitigate the damage, ITD expanded spawning beds all along the area and built the popular Centennial Trail. It's the spawning kokanee that draw the eagles each year.

Federal authorities nixed the interchange the agency had been attempting to build, to connect the former freeway at Lake Coeur d’Alene Drive with the new one on the far side of the then-new high bridge, the Veterans Memorial Bridge. That’s why it’s now a popular recreation and wildlife viewing area with no through traffic; it's that bridge that the megaloads are skirting by following the roundabout route. The partly completed remains of the abandoned interchange are what would serve as the temporary on-ramp.

Megaload en route from Oregon could reach southern Idaho on Thursday

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A 450-ton shipment of oilfield equipment that's been rumbling toward Idaho for days should enter the state sometime Thursday night or Friday morning. The “megaload,” bound for the Canadian tar sands oil development, has been delayed by protests and bad weather in Eastern Oregon. It got permission from officials there for a daylight run Tuesday, traveling 50 miles on a stretch at elevations above 4,000 feet where the state said ice was feared after dark. A spokeswoman for the moving company, Holly Zander, said the transport could reach Vale Thursday. That's just over the border from Idaho, where the Transportation Department plans to issue a permit Thursday. On Monday, 16 people were arrested near John Day. Environmentalists tried to block the rig, contending tar-sands development will contribute to global warming.

ITD correction: Coeur d’Alene megaloads are bound for Montana, not Canada

The Idaho Transportation Department today is correcting some information it gave out yesterday regarding three giant megaloads that are proposed to travel through Coeur d’Alene on I-90 within the next month: The loads are headed for a refinery in Great Falls, Mont., as part of an upgrade, not for the Canadian oil sands, where so many other big loads passing through the state in recent years have been bound. “I apologize for that,” said Adam Rush, ITD spokesman. “We’ve had different shipments going in different areas. They’re going to Great Falls and not Canada.”

The three loads, proposed by hauler Mammoet USA South, Inc., are equipment that’s being delivered as part of a refinery upgrade at the Calumet Refinery in Great Falls, Rush said.

Freeway closures, onramp work planned for I-90 in Coeur d’Alene for megaloads

The Idaho Transportation Department is inviting the public to a meeting Thursday in Coeur d’Alene to discuss on-ramp widening and brief, temporary closures of I-90 at Sherman Avenue that are planned to allow three megaloads of oil field equipment bound for Canada to pass through. The three giant loads – which each will measure 472 feet long, 27 feet wide, about 16 feet tall and weigh 1.6 million pounds – could travel within the next month, said ITD spokesman Mel Coulter. “The public meeting is designed to explain it to the public and get some feedback,” he said “It’s not imminent.”

The megaloads, being hauled by Mammoet USA South, Inc., would arrive at I-90 from the Lewiston area via U.S. Highway 95, exit I-90 at the Sherman Avenue interchange, travel 5.5 miles along East Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive, pass under the I-90 overpass west of Higgens Point, and re-enter I-90 at a temporary on-ramp that ITD said is “mostly completed” on the north side of I-90. “The on-ramp, which is on public right of way, will have widening work done to allow the shipments to use it,” ITD said in a news release. Coulter said the freeway likely would close for only about 10 minutes at a time.

Other megaload transports in the region have drawn protests and lawsuits; you can read my full story here at

Megaload inches closer to Idaho

A 450-ton shipment of equipment bound for the Canadian oil sands is slowly making its way across eastern Oregon, and is expected to be near the Idaho border on Wednesday, the Ontario Argus Observer reports. The shipment, so large that it creates a rolling roadblock on the two-lane roads it's traveling, is moving only at night; it's been delayed both by wintry weather and protests. The item, a giant piece of water purification equipment being hauled by Omega Morgan for a division of General Electric, is the first of three; it's expected to arrive in Vale, Ore. on Wednesday morning. Click below for a full report the Argus Observer and the Associated Press.

Megaload leaves eastern Oregon after protests

A transport rig carrying a 450-ton piece of equipment bound for the Canadian oil sands left a northeast Oregon port on Monday night, the AP reports, a day after protesters halted its earlier planned departure on Sunday, resulting in two arrests. The water purification equipment is destined for Alberta; from eastern Oregon it will travel through Idaho and Montana, traveling only at night because it's so large it'll take up both lanes of the two-lane sections of roads it travels. The megaload, being transported for a division of General Electric, is 22 feet wide and 380 feet long; the company had earlier planned to send the loads over north-central Idaho's scenic U.S. Highway 12, but was halted by a lawsuit and protests from the Nez Perce Tribe. The East Oregonian newspaper reported that the load left the Port of Umatilla shortly before 8 p.m. Monday, infuriating protesters who felt the early evening departure violated an Oregon Transportation Department permit. Click below for the full AP report.


Protesters delay Idaho-bound megaload’s departure from Oregon

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: UMATILLA, Ore. (AP) — Protesters blocked the departure of an oil refinery megaload Sunday night at the Port of Umatilla. The East Oregonian reports ( two protesters were arrested after they locked themselves to the truck. It took police two hours to remove the men, and by the time they finished it was 11:30 p.m. A planned departure last Tuesday also was protested. The company handling the move said it was delayed because it took more time than expected to load and secure the equipment. The megaload is oil refinery equipment destined for Alberta, Canada. It's 380 feet long and weighs 450 tons. From eastern Oregon it will travel through Idaho and Montana. Environmentalists are fighting the shipment to draw attention to concerns about climate change from developing tar sand oil in western Canada.

Click below for a full report from the AP and the East Oregonian in Pendleton.

Megaload transport runs into objections in Oregon

The start of a megaload shipment of oil refinery equipment through Eastern Oregon has been put off until Sunday, the AP reports, and objections have been raised in Eastern Oregon that the state didn't do enough to notify tribal and local government officials. The shipment has also drawn protests from environmentalists gathered Sunday and Monday at the Port of Umatilla; they want to call attention to the global warming repercussions that could come from development of oil from the tar sands in western Canada. The shipment weighing 901,000 pounds remained at the Port of Umatilla on Tuesday, two days after it was scheduled to move. Click below for a full report from the AP and the Argus Observer in Ontario.

Megaload hauler proposes route in Oregon, southern Idaho

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A company hired by a subsidiary of General Electric to ship massive oil refinery equipment to the tar sands project in Canada is now seeking to haul the oversized loads across eastern Oregon and southern Idaho. The first of three megaloads could begin making its way through Oregon this weekend before crossing into Idaho's southwestern corner next week. The Oregon Department of Transportation has already issued permits for the first shipment, while Idaho highway officials are still studying the travel plan submitted by shipper Omega Morgan. The new proposed route comes months after a federal judge in Idaho blocked the company from traveling along U.S. Highway 12 and a protected wild and scenic river corridor in northern Idaho. The megaloads would leave Idaho and enter Montana along U.S. Highway 93.

Click below for a full report from AP reporter Todd Dvorak.

GE subsidiary drops megaload appeal

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) — A General Electric Co. subsidiary has given up its legal fight to haul the second of two huge loads of water purification equipment through the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest and will find another way to get the equipment to the Canadian oil fields. The Lewiston Tribune reports ( Resources Conservation Company International filed documents Thursday saying it was dropping its emergency motion to stay an injunction that prevented it from using the U.S. Highway 12 route. GE issued a statement saying the equipment is important to its customers and it will focus on finding alternative shipment options. Last month, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill issued an injunction that effectively blocked the GE unit from hauling large loads along the winding, two-lane road that passes through tribal lands and a federally designated Wild and Scenic River corridor.

Four Omega Morgan mini-megaloads head up Highway 95 from Lewiston, but big one still at port

Late yesterday afternoon, the Idaho Transportation Department announced four oversized loads from Omega Morgan would travel up Highway 95 from Lewiston to Coeur d’Alene, starting last night at 9:30, en route to I-90 to Montana. “Each shipment is 20.1 feet wide, 15.6 feet tall, 75 feet long and weighs under 80,000 pounds,” ITD spokesman Adam Rush reported. “They will enter Idaho from the Port of Wilma in Clarkston, Wash., using Idaho 128. Once the shipments reach Coeur d'Alene, they will travel eastbound to Montana on Interstate 90.”

Remember that Omega Morgan has had a giant water evaporator bound for the Canadian oil sands sitting at the Port of Wilma, stalled by a federal court order, since it sent a similar one across Highway 12 in north-central Idaho in August for a division of General Electric. The company argued that the megaloads couldn’t be reduced in size, and thus had to travel over the scenic river corridor, which unlike the I-90 freeway, has no overpasses that limit heights. The Nez Perce Tribe and Idaho Rivers United sued the U.S. Forest Service, which has jurisdiction over designated Wild and Scenic Rivers corridor, and a federal judge halted the shipments until the Forest Service has completed a corridor study and consulted with the tribe. On Friday, the company filed a notice of appeal to the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

So has the evaporator has now been cut up into four loads? ITD says no. “The equipment shipped last night is different than the equipment proposed to travel U.S. 12,” said ITD spokesman Jeff Stratten. “That equipment is still at the port of Wilma.”

ITD reports that three flagging teams, two pilot vehicles and portable signs are traveling with each pair of shipments as they move up Highway 95 and along I-90, and delays for other traffic on 95 are required to not exceed 15 minutes. “Locations have been identified along U.S. 95 where the shipments can safely pull over to let traffic pass,” Rush said. Click below for his full news release.

Federal judge refuses to lift ban on Highway 12 megaloads

A federal judge has denied motions from both a division of General Electric and the U.S. Forest Service to lift a ban on megaload shipments across a scenic stretch of U.S. Highway 12 in north-central Idaho. U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill rejected arguments from the firm and the Forest Service that he should either reconsider the injunction he issued, banning the loads until the Forest Service has conducted a corridor study and consulted with the Nez Perce Tribe; or stay the injunction while the company appeals it.

The judge said he couldn’t issue such a stay unless the company, Resources Conservation Company International, made a “strong showing” it was likely to succeed on the merits in the case, and that it would be “irreparably injured” without a stay. “The court cannot find that RCCI has made a strong showing that it will prevail on appeal,” Winmill wrote. “Moreover, any likely damages are monetary in nature and not irreparable.”

The law also requires consideration of whether a stay would “substantially injure” the other parties in the proceeding, and of the public interest, the judge wrote. “Staying the injunction will cause the very harm plaintiffs complain about in this lawsuit, harm the Court has found would be irreparable,” Winmill wrote; you can read my full story here at The Nez Perce Tribe and Idaho Rivers United sued after RCCI sent a 322-ton load, big enough to block both lanes of the winding two-lane road and create a rolling roadblock, across the route in August en route from Lewiston to the Canadian oil sands, and announced plans for another to follow. They contended allowing the loads without first studying impacts and consulting with the tribe would violate federal law, and could threaten environmental, historical and cultural values in the area, which includes the Nez Perce Reservation.

Forest Service issues closure order for megaloads on Highway 12

The U.S. Forest Service has issued a closure order barring megaloads from Highway 12 through the Lochsa-Clearwater Wild and Scenic Rivers corridor in north-central Idaho, pursuant to a federal judge's ruling; you can see the order here. In a statement, the Forest Service said the route, from mileposts 75.2 to 174.4 in the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest, is now closed to loads more than 16 feet wide or 150 feet long; to loads that would take more than 12 hours to traverse that section of road; or loads that “requires physical modification of the roadway or adjacent vegetation to facilitate passage beyond normal highway maintenance.” The closure order is in effect “until rescinded,” the Forest Service reported; click below for the Forest Service statement.

Today is the day that Omega Morgan, the transport company at which the closure order is addressed, had planned to ship another giant load across the route for a subsidiary of General Electric, an evaporator headed for the Canadian tar sands.

Forest Service says it’s preparing megaloads closure order, pursuant to court ruling

The U.S. Forest Service has issued the following statement in response to U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill's ruling today halting megaloads on scenic Highway 12 in North Idaho: “In compliance with the Judge’s order, the Forest Service is preparing a closure order for mega-loads traveling Highway 12 between mileposts 74 and 174.  The Forest Service anticipates its study of the corridor to be completed by the end of September and it will continue to consult with the Nez Perce Tribe. We are continuing to review the decision to determine what further action, if any, to take.”

Elizabeth Slown, director of public and governmental relations for the Forest Service's northern region in Missoula, said no decision has been made as to any appeal of the ruling.

IRU: Oil sands projects can find other shipping routes to Canada, or build their equipment there

Idaho Rivers United, the Idaho conservation group that joined the Nez Perce Tribe in suing to block megaload transports on scenic Highway 12 in north-central Idaho, called a federal judge’s ruling today in the case “a win for all who cherish the esthetic, spiritual and recreational values of the Lochsa and Clearwater rivers.” Kevin Lewis, IRU conservation director, said in a statement, “The judge has provided the time-out needed to complete the environmental reviews, tribal consultation and rule-making necessary to protect this beautiful river corridor.”

The group said the case has implications for other federally designated Wild and Scenic River corridors across the country. “Industrialization doesn’t work there,” said IRU Executive Director Bill Sedivy. Lewis said as numerous large oil projects get under way in northern Alberta’s oil sands, “These companies, some of the largest in the world, can afford to build their equipment in Canada or find other routes to ship it there.” You can read IRU’s full statement here.

G.E. ‘disappointed’ by court ruling, defends megaload shipping plans

A subsidiary of General Electric that hoped to ship a second giant megaload over scenic U.S. Highway 12 in North Idaho next week in route to the Canadian oil sands said today it was “disappointed” with a judge’s order blocking its shipment, and defended its shipping plans. “While we now must review our options, we have addressed the safety, environmental and aesthetic considerations in choosing this route for shipment,” Bill Heins, chief operating officer of RCCI, the affiliate, said in a statement. The company said the equipment it wants to ship, a water evaporator, has “significant environmental benefits” because it will result in big water savings and less wastewater discharge during the heavy oil recovery process in the tar sands. You can read the firm’s full statement here.

Nez Perce Tribe applauds megaloads ruling

Silas Whitman, chairman of the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee, issued a statement today applauding a federal judge’s ruling ordering the Forest Service to halt megaload transports across scenic Highway 12 in central Idaho until it’s completed a corridor study and consulted with the Nez Perce Tribe. “The Tribe is pleased the Court’s decision recognizes the Tribe’s sovereignty and its rights and interests,” Whitman said. Noting the judge’s statement in his ruling that the tribe is seeing to “preserve its treaty rights along with cultural and intrinsic values that have no price tag,” Whitman said, “This speaks to the truth regarding the heart of the Nez Perce people and our connection to our homeland.”

“The Tribe will not let U.S. Highway 12, both through the national forest and Wild and Scenic River corridor and the Nez Perce Reservation, be transformed into an industrial corridor,” Whitman said. You can read his full statement here.

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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