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Megaloads to defy federal agencies and Native tribes

The heavy haul is back. The equipment weighs 644,000 pounds, is 225 feet long, 21 feet wide and 24 feet tall. It's already barged up the Columbia River and now sits at Washington's Port of Wilma, waiting to roll through the forests of Idaho. According to a press release from the Idaho Transportation Department, the massive load is set to move at 10 pm tonight. And according Wild Idaho Rising Tide, that move will be met with enthusiastic opposition. 

The megaload of tar sands equipment is  from Oregon's Omega Morgan. Like apparently all tar sands equipment, the load is massive. Opponents object to the loads not only based on their use in toxic climate-change inducing tar sands mining, but also because their sheer size affects communities and ecosystems along the backroads the shipper intends to take. Local residents, activists, tribes and others fought the Imperial Oil modules and won in 2011, and the megaloads look to be heading for another showdown. 

The Idaho Department of Transportation has announced it is letting the megaloads roll — despite the Forest Service's objections and a federal court ruling that says that  “…the court finds that the federal defendants have jurisdiction to review ITD’s approval of the mega-loads over Highway12.” The Forest Service wants to consult with the Nez Perce tribe and the tribe has already made clear its objections to the loads and what Nez Perce Tribal Executive Chairman Silas C. Whitman calls Omega Morgan's "audacity."

The tribe says that the loads "can adversely affect the tribe’s treaty-reserved resources, tribal commerce, government function, cultural resources and tribal landmarks." And Whitman says in the press release that:

Actions beyond mere words may be necessary, in order to have the Nez Perce Tribe’s voice heard. If Omega Morgan proceeds with defying the Forest Service, the Nez Perce Tribe will not interfere with its members’ constitutional rights to lawfully assemble in opposition to the immediate threat of the transport of these two megaloads (today).

Nez Perce National Forest Supervisor Rick Brazell writes Omega Morgan CEO John McCalla,"The Forest Service does not consent, approve or otherwise authorize Omega Morgan to transport the subject over legal loads on US Highway 12 between MP 74 and 174."

Brazell's letter continues:

I found your letter troubling in many ways. First, the letter gives the false impression that your company and my staff have been having “extended interaction.” This overstates the nature of our interaction which includes only a single two-hour meeting held May 15th in Grangeville, Idaho. I have had numerous conversations with your consultant Mark Rey, but the end result of those conversations was that the Forest Service had concerns and did not support the transport of over legal loads meeting certain criteria until further review and consultation can occur.

According to a recent Lewiston Tribune article, Mark Rey,  former undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (and longtime foe of environmentalists) is working for Omega Morgan. 

Photo credit: Brett Haverstick, Friends of the Clearwater