Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Megaload crosses into Idaho

Second overweight shipment is now on the road

Express Staff Writer

Environmental activists are planning protests, such as this one at Umatilla, Ore., against megaloads of oil production equipment bound for Alberta, Canada. The first of three shipments entered Idaho Sunday night. Courtesy photo by E.J. Harris of the East Oregonian

    The first of three overweight and oversize shipments, referred to as megaloads, of oil production equipment bound for Alberta, Canada, and destined to pass through Blaine County, entered Idaho from Oregon Sunday night and was parked Monday near Marsing.
    Transport through Idaho was given a green light on Friday when the Idaho Transportation Department issued a permit for the first megaload. It requires that the shipment only travel from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and prohibits travel on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
    The load, including the trucks and trailer used to transport it, weighs more than 450 tons and is 382 feet long. Referred to by the shipper Omega Morgan of Hillsboro, Ore., as heat exchanger/water purification equipment, the load is being hauled to the Athabasca tar sands oil production field in northern Alberta.
    Environmental activists are organizing protests against the shipment, including one at Timmerman Junction south of Bellevue.
    Meanwhile, the second megaload left Umatilla, Ore., on Sunday night and was parked Monday in Pendleton.

Travel permit
    Delayed by protesters and wintry weather, it took three weeks for Megaload I to reach Idaho after leaving Umatilla on Dec. 2. It arrived at Vale, Ore., on Friday but icy road conditions delayed it two more days before it could make the final trek of about 40 miles to Idaho.
    The route through Idaho starts on U.S. Highway 19 near Homedale and then follows mainly secondary highways until it reaches Mountain Home, where the shipment moves onto U.S. Highway 20. It will eventually pass through southern Blaine County, including Timmerman Junction and Carey.
    East of Arco, the route turns to the north and exits the state into Montana near Salmon.
    Since the load is about 23 feet wide, traffic in both lanes is stopped while the shipment passes. According to the ITD permit, the shipment is required to frequently pull off the road at pre-designated locations and is allowed “as much as possible” to only delay other traffic for 15 minutes.

Everything’s going well and we didn’t run into any weather or other complications.”
Holly Zander
Omega Morgan

    The shipment is accompanied by flaggers and pilot vehicles to help control traffic while the load is moving.
    In addition to restricting travel to nighttime, the ITD permit requires that the load not be moved if visibility is less than 500 feet.

Protests planned
    Moscow-based Wild Idaho Rising Tide announced in a press release Monday that it and several other regional environmental activist groups are organizing protests in Oregon, Idaho and Montana. Four are planned for Idaho, including one Monday night in Marsing. Other locations are Mountain Home, Timmerman Junction and Salmon.
    Wild Idaho Rising Tide and other environmental groups claim that they oppose the shipments because of the potential for road and bridge damage and because the Athabasca tar sands operation causes irreversible environmental damage, leads to large emissions of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases, pollutes both ground and surface water, ruins wetlands for numerous species of migrating waterfowl and violates treaty agreements with Indian tribes in both the U.S. and Canada.
    Activists have not said whether they will attempt to block the shipments, such as was done when Megaload I left Umatilla and later at John Day, Ore. Three people were arrested at Umatilla and 16 at John Day.
    Omega Morgan spokeswoman Holly Zander said Monday that there was no protest at Umatilla when Megaload II left Sunday night.
    “Everything’s going well and we didn’t run into any weather or other complications,” she said.
    Zander said Megaload II is the same type of equipment as Megaload I, but that the load is not as long and doesn’t weigh as much. She said that because of a different trailer arrangement, the entire load is 350 feet long and weighs 804,000 pounds.
    Zander said earlier that the third shipment is planned to start out later this month or in January.
Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com

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