New Year Likely To Bring More ‘Megaload’ Fights

By Jessica Robinson

Two large pieces of oil equipment crossing the Northwest are expected to start moving again after the New Year's holiday. The past year has been full of stops and starts for the huge shipments known generally as “megaloads.” The closure of one controversial route is only opening up other conflicts likely to continue into 2014.

Members of the Nez Perce Tribe in Idaho block the passage of a “megaload” being shipped by Omega Morgan in August. Photo by Jessica RobinsonClearer weather in eastern Oregon and southern Idaho has helped Hillsboro, Ore., based shipper Omega Morgan make up some ground over the last several days. The shipper now has two loads en route to Alberta's tar sands. They’re two lanes wide and nearly two stories tall.

This route is plan B. Over the summer, a federal judge closed Idaho’s scenic Highway 12 to megaloads, a victory for protesters.

Yet the alternatives are also meeting resistance. Adrienne Cronebaugh of the Kootenai Environmental Alliance in north Idaho is worried about a new plan by the shipper Mammoet. It's trying to send a trio of 1.6 million-pound loads through Coeur d'Alene in early 2014.

Adrienne Cronebaugh: “And I don't want to see Lake Coeur d'Alene's shoreline there become a corridor for industrial megaloads shipments.”

The pushback to megaloads has prompted shipping companies to step up local public outreach efforts. A representative of Mammoet says added security is also now a standard part of the cost of moving a megaload.

Photo: Members of the Nez Perce Tribe in Idaho block the passage of a “megaload” being shipped by Omega Morgan in August. Photo by Jessica Robinson

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