Friday, January 3, 2014

Megaload passes through Timmerman without incident

Both protesters and supporters brave cold night to see shipment

Express Staff Writer

This megaload of tar sands oil production equipment, 382 feet long and weighing more than 450 tons, passed through Timmerman Junction in south Blaine County at 1:35 a.m. Tuesday. A second and similar load is expected to pass through the junction next week. Photo by Willy Cook

  About 20 people showed up in the parking lot at the rest area of Timmerman Junction in south Blaine County late Monday night to watch a megaload of tar sands oil production equipment pass by on its way to Alberta, Canada.
    Seven, who held signs or banners, were obviously protesters and stood on the east side of the entrance to the rest area on U.S. Highway 20 as the load passed by. Another three people stood on the west side of the entrance and shouted support for the megaload. The remainder of the spectators were either there to take photographs or just to see the gigantic load and didn’t express either protest or support.
    As the load passed through, protesters shouted, “Get out of Idaho! Go back to where you came from! You get out of here, megaload—we don’t like you!
    At the same time, supporters shouted, “Welcome to Idaho! Welcome, megaload!” They clapped as the shipment passed, and a driver of one of the trucks pushing the load honked his horn, presumably in appreciation of the support.

Oh, no, I’m not here to protest. I’m just here to take photographs.”
Nils Ribi
Sun Valley city councilman

    Police far outnumbered the protesters, with nearly a dozen vehicles there from Idaho State Police and the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office.
    Sun Valley City Councilman Nils Ribi showed up.
    “Oh, no, I’m not here to protest,” Ribi said. “I’m just here to take photographs.”
    The megaload, weighing 450 tons, 382 feet long, 18 feet high and about 23 feet wide, is the first of three shipments destined to pass through southern Blaine County within the next month or so. The shipments are headed to the Athabasca tar sands oil production complex in northeast Alberta, where they will be used in the extraction of crude oil from bitumen, a gooey solid substance found in abundance in the area. Most of the crude from Athabasca is transported by pipeline to more than 20 oil refineries in the United States.
    Numerous environmental groups oppose tar sands mining because of adverse effects on the environment.
    Megaload I started its journey to Alberta on Dec. 2 at Umatilla, Ore. Mainly because of wintry weather, the shipment made slow progress through Oregon and didn’t arrive in Idaho until Dec. 22.
    The shipment, which was delayed because of fog and the Christmas holidays, stayed at Marsing in southwest Idaho until Dec. 28, but once it started moving, it made relatively rapid progress, moving 96 miles from Marsing to Hammett that night. During the night of Dec. 29, the shipment was moved about 40 miles through Mountain Home and to the top of Cat Creek Summit on U.S. Highway 20. From there, it traveled 123 miles on Monday night, moving through Timmerman Junction and ending up just east of Butte City.
    The shipment was held Tuesday and Wednesday night because of the New Year’s holiday but, according to the Idaho Transportation Department, it was expected to resume its journey Thursday night, heading north to Salmon and then into Montana.
ITD also anticipated that Megaload II could enter the state near Marsing on Thursday night.
A second protest, being organized by Moscow-based Wild Idaho Rising Tide and another environmental activist group known as 350 Idaho, is tentatively planned for Monday, Jan. 6, at Timmerman Junction.
    Protesters for the first megaload shipment began gathering at 9 p.m. Monday at the junction, but had to wait several hours for the shipment to arrive. With the temperature in the low 20s, people stayed warm by sitting in parked cars with motors running.
    It became obvious when the shipment was getting close because of police vehicles, shipper Omega Morgan support and security vehicles, Idaho Power Trucks and ITD vehicles showing up at the junction.
    Traffic was blocked by police or Omega Morgan flaggers on both U.S. Highway 20 and state Highway 75 shortly before 1:30 a.m., at which time spectators left the warmth of their vehicles to take positions at the side of U.S. Highway 20.
    The megaload, pulled by one truck tractor and pushed by two others, rolled by at about 15 mph at 1:35 p.m. It stopped briefly at the junction while Idaho Power employees in truck-mounted cherry pickers checked the height of the junction stoplight. In some instances along the route, power company workers have to disconnect or push wires to a greater height.

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