Megaloads! What’s It Really About?

I don’t understand what all this is really about, honestly. In fact, I couldn’t find a post category to really describe it, other than climate change.

I live in a part of the world in which megaloads of mining equipment are..well… somewhat routine, even in daylight hours.
I understand that it’s a Wild and Scenic River .. but it’s one with a State Highway next to it.

There apparently are a total of 10 loads, required to go by “state-ordered guidelines that include traveling at night, not holding up traffic for longer than 15 minutes and not making any alterations to the roadways or surrounding vegetation,” according to the LA Times story here excerpted below. For headline watchers, note that the title includes “Idaho Wilderness”. Of course, wildernesses don’t actually have roads in them, at least not state highways.

“Everything is in there,” said Silas Whitman, chairman of the Nez Perce tribal executive committee and among those arrested. “Yet they want to make it an industrial corridor.” By allowing the loads, he said, the tribe would “be a party to the destruction to those areas.”

The load this week has raised questions about who has the authority to approve such convoys. Omega Morgan, the Oregon contractor transporting a General Electric water evaporator, said it was operating under an oversized load permit approved by the Idaho Department of Transportation.

The company said it followed state-ordered guidelines that include traveling at night, not holding up traffic for longer than 15 minutes and not making any alterations to the roadways or surrounding vegetation.

But the U.S. Forest Service claims to have authority in cases in which the loads travel through protected lands. It has voiced opposition, saying in a statement that it disagreed with the state permit through the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests until a study could be completed in the coming months.

Forest Service officials are examining not only the effect on the ecosystem, but other intangible factors such as the spiritual value of the land to the tribe.

“That’s the part we struggle with, the intrinsic and spiritual value of this corridor,” said Rick Brazell, forest supervisor for the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests. “We can touch those biological things and get a feel for the numbers. We can’t gather that [kind of information with] intrinsic things you can’t see and touch, and they mean a lot…. We are on a path to get that information.”

It is interesting that spiritual values come up..and how we might estimate the impact of a particular policy on spiritual values. As regular readers know, I am a great believer in the Unseen. Still, it will be difficult to describe in an EIS. We have to look no farther than the world news today, on the celebration of the end of Ramadan, to see that there are many views of the Unseen that are sometimes in conflict.

If it’s really about keeping our neighbor to the North from engaging in policies we don’t agree with, well .. they are our neighbors with their own scientists and politicians, and it seems (to me anyway) to take a bit of hubris to tell them what they shouldn’t do. After all, you know the admonition, attributed to a spiritual leader, “First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”

Anyway, here is another news story. Lewiston here.

22 thoughts on “Megaloads! What’s It Really About?”

  1. 🙂 I bet that you didn’t know that it is now illegal to pass gas while you are on USFS lands 🙂

    Legally the Indians should get whatever they want:
    1) We stole their land from them
    2) They are an endangered species
    3) They should be allowed to shoot us and drive us all back to Europe along with the barred owl
    4) Traditional means of resolving disputes between tribes will control the human population and thereby return the US to its prehistoric natural form and all of the enviros will be happy even though they won’t be able to enjoy their view sheds. They certainly won’t be allowed to visit because that would interfere with the spiritual values of the natives and add CO2 emissions offsetting all of that carbon stored in all of those forests.

    Now that would be justice 🙂
    Oh, My, I forgot, the Indians migrated here also. Now, I am really confused. But then that is to be expected when I try to play God by trying to stop evolution and global change.

  2. Your comment seems quite short sighted and rather obtuse. The megaloads should be stopped for all the obvious reasons mentioned above: wild and scenic river and etc. More important is that the native people of both the US and Canada have realized the extent of the ecological blight which is the Alberta tar sands project. They also oppose the pipelines that would carry that oil through their tribal lands. As far as I can see they are they only political entities that are in position to resist the tar sands and pipeline project.

    Not to mention that a federal judge has given the US Forest Service authorization to halt the megaloads but apparently the Forest Supervisor has had his hands tied by officials higher up the bureaucracy. It is quite shameful.

    As for the Nez Perce:

    All but one of the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee were arrested attempting to bloackade the megaload.

    “It’s time for America to stand up. It’s time for America to wake up and see what’s happening,” NPTEC member Anthony Johnson said.

    NPTEC member Joel Moffett said Omega Morgan “is not going to desecrate our homeland for the almighty dollar.”

    Also one Nez Perce leader stated that: ‘We need to be able to meet our ancestors in the spirit world and hold our heads up strong and answer them when they ask if we did all we could do to protect the people and the land.’

    This is a remarkable echo of the voices of their tribal leaders when they were cajoled to sign the 1855 treaty by Isaace Stevens. Well, there’s that.

    But there is also the issue of the Alberta tar sands. It is not simply just a Canadian issue. It is a global issue. It is the largest industrial project on the planet. It can be seen from space. And if it is built out and fully operational and all the pipeline laid and full of oil it is game over in terms of global climate change. Global Climate Change is sufficient enough of a “tag” for the megaload bloackade to have meaning. Just “google” Alberta tar sands and take a look at the photos. If you want to know more about the moving the megaloads over Lolo Pass I highly recommend ‘The Heart of the Monster’ by Rick Bass and David James Duncan. If you can’t understand that you can’t understand anything.

    • TB- I’m not sure that (Obama Administration) officials are what’s holding up the Forest Supervisor; from this story in the Missoulian.

      Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest Supervisor Rick Brazell initially listed three criteria to determine if a load qualifies as a megaload, which would have to go through a formal review process that hasn’t been created.

      One was that a megaload would require traffic to be stopped. Others were loads that take more than 12 hours to pass through the forest and those that require the highway or adjacent vegetation to be modified to allow the load to pass.

      Last week, Idaho Transportation Department Chief Deputy L. Scott Stokes asked Brazell to reconsider the first criterion, saying it is routine for traffic to be stopped for a variety of reasons.

      The Lewiston Tribune reports ( Brazell responded Friday by agreeing to replace the traffic-stoppage criterion with one based on a state rule that requires traffic control plans for loads more than 16 feet wide or 150 feet long traveling on a narrow section of U.S. Highway 12.

      Brazell’s letter notes the two loads Omega Morgan is seeking permits to haul through Idaho exceed that size and would take two days to travel through the forest.

      “I would like to reiterate that the Forest Service does not support ITD permitting oversized loads meeting the interim criteria until the impacts of that use on the corridor values is better understood,” Brazell wrote.

      He said the Forest Service planned to meet with officials with the Nez Perce Tribe on Aug. 20 to start talking about the interim criteria, a Wild and Scenic River study and developing a process to deal with megaloads traveling through the forest and reservation land.

      “These are challenging discussions which will take time and we have no timeline for completing a corridor study, but are seeking funding opportunities and evaluating internal capacity to complete such a study,” he wrote.

      My interpretation would be that the FS needs to design something that does not appear to be arbitrary (nor capricious ;)) and work collaboratively with the Nez Perce, which takes time. Gee, I guess Forest Supervisors are darned if they do follow APA and darned if they don’t.

  3. Dear “great believer in the Unseen,”
    As a now irregular reader, I find this post emblematic of the hyper-compartmentalized world view you’ve consistently espoused on NCFP — and particularly rich with irony.

    First, the deliberate excision of the first word and punctuation of the full quote attributed to the Prince of Peace:

    “Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye…”

    Second, the teachings of that particular “spiritual leader” having been twisted to justify the past (and ongoing) systematic genocide of North American Natives.

    Third, the American Dream as evidenced by the economic model exemplified in Naomi Kline’s brilliant coinage of “Disaster Capitalism” begets a genocide not confined to “godless heathens” (btw, heathen originally meant “dweller of the woods”) but all forms of life.

    There’s far more to point out here, such as the “log in your own eye…”, but its best encapsulated with this observation:

    There is an unmistakable Manifest Destiny infused in your professional (as USFS geneticist, ecologist) and spiritual world view, which is itself at dramatic odds with your claim of having spiritual values.

    • David- My ancestors weren’t even here when those crimes against Native people happened. My ancestors were in the old country, busily killing each other over purportedly, but not really, “religious” disputes,. So you must not mean that historic Manifest Destiny.

      I looked it up on Wikipedia and Manifest Destiny is:

      Historians have for the most part agreed that there are three basic themes to Manifest Destiny. 1. The special virtues of the American people and their institutions; 2. America’s mission to redeem and remake the world in the image of America; 3. A divine destiny under God’s direction to accomplish this wonderful task.

      I don’t believe in any of those things; in fact, I thought it quasi-colonialist to say we know better than our northern neighbors about what they should be doing.

      People have done, and continue to do bad things, even based on good ideas, I’m not arguing with that.

      • You might say, “I don’t believe in any of those things,” but your countless attacks on ESA (for example) argue for abandoning many species put directly at risk by your former agency’s willful mismanagement of public lands. This is accomplished by disregarding whole species reduced to mere externalized costs and then often argued by you being against their restoration on the basis of monetary costs. There are countless examples of this ideology imbedded in your posts.

        (Again, despite this religious permutation of the national worship of money, money does not equal life, and if one breaks something, it follows one should accept responsibility for fixing it.)

        Clearly, the first two contexts of Manifest Destiny directly apply to your defined and applied world view espoused on NCFP, and the third is not only implied, but curiously needed to be invoked by you on numerous occasions.

        Those invocations of the “spiritual” have a distinctly familiar ring to the echoes of history and the present era of Amerikan exceptionalism, imperialism and neocolonialism.

  4. Good questions.

    It’s not about telling “them” what “they” can’t do.

    The transportation in question is on “our” turf, not theirs.

    It’s about saying, “You can’t do that here. Not even the little part about saving a few bucks in expanding your take, by transporting the tools in megaloads.” We will not assist.

    And the fate of the biosphere, as we know it, is at stake.

    Scientifically speaking, that is.

    • Kevin, speaking as a scientist, the fate of the biosphere is certainly not at stake. That is the type of gross hyperbole that has been costing the environmental industry lots of credibility in the past few years.

      And who are you considering “ours?” The Nez Perce? US taxpayers? US occupiers? The environmental community? I know “my” policy is to be a good neighbor and to encourage and cooperate with those who ask for my assistance. We have real problems with our forests and the management of our resources these days — why keep looking for more when we can’t handle the ones we have? (Rhetorical question).

    • My point was that you can drive around Colorado and Wyoming and see megaloads of all kinds.. we seem to be telling our northern neighbors that the transport is OK for us, but not for you. Because we disagree with what you are doing on your land.

      • Are these “megaloads of all kinds” in Colorado and Wyoming going through Wild and Scenic River corridors? Are they passing near/through tribal lands? Has a court held a federal agency must analyze their impacts before allowing their transport? Will they be used for similar activities? Without any such details, references to other instances of megaloads don’t really provide much context for comparison or contrast. And how do we know no one has ever raised concerns about megaloads in Colorado or Wyoming?

        There are routes through British Columbia to Alberta. I suppose there must be overpasses that don’t accommodate megaloads on those routes. What if the opposite occurred, and “we” wanted to ship/haul megaloads through a Canadian equivalent of a “Wild and Scenic River” corridor or near First Nations lands? Would we not expect similar concerns from our northern neighbors?

        I’d add that any disagreement “with what [our northern neighbors] are doing on [their] land” is also a disagreement with how that activity ultimately affects everyone’s atmosphere, climate, precipitation patterns, etc. I understand some do not accept anthropogenic contributions to climate change as established in the scientific literature.

        • John: I’m with you on everything you say in the first few paragraphs, although I don’t necessarily agree with all of it. Paragraph 3 caught me off guard with your concerns regarding megaload (or “Canadian”) effects on atmosphere, climate, and precipitation patterns. That IS a stretch! (“The megaload passed by today, my son, and it will snow next Monday. Trust Grandpa.”) John, sorry, but that’s just goofy. Even blaming (or even implying) an entire sparsely populated nation for such effects is a little paranoid, isn’t it?

          I am one of many scientists who do not believe our climate is measurably affected by human-generated C02. This theory has hardly been “established” in the scientific literature or anywhere else. Science (excepting political, maybe) is not a game of consensus; it is a game of challenges. You don’t vote on your findings, you question them and try to get others to replicate your results. And when someone finds a hole in the balloon, it pops. Nothing wrong with that — it’s why Edison claimed we have light bulbs today.

          Here’s a fun 90 seconds with my long-time friend, Bill Hagenstein:

          • The megaloads will help facilitate tar sands (fossil fuel) extraction, which will then be shipped, refined, and burned by others. Most peer-reviewed scientific research indicates anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion have contributed or will contribute to global climate change. There is nothing goofy or paranoid about saying that. I never said a megaload will make it snow the next Monday, nor would anyone. Note the word “ultimately” in my third paragraph above; I didn’t say “immediately” or even “subsequently.”

            Canada’s sparse population has nothing to do with greenhouse gas emissions that will result from burning refined tar sands, nor have I assigned any blame. But Sharon characterized the “disagreement” as merely about the surface area impacted by tar sands extraction, which certainly is huge and unsettling. I pointed out that there are other concerns beyond those thousands of square surface miles.

            Who gets to say the balloon has been popped, and when? Because some researchers have made contradictory findings? Would taking a cautious approach to the development and use of fossil fuels be so unwise when there is a clear majority and minority position among researchers? Of course we should continue to finetune our scientific understanding of these complex processes. But that doesn’t mean humans’ use of fossil fuels can’t or won’t have an impact on climate, most likely to our detriment. What other scientific research should we not trust, believe, or consider? Why do people generally trust medical science but fewer trust climate science? Don’t the same scientific principles underlie all areas of scientific research, i.e., the scientific method, etc.?

            Your friend Bill Hagenstein called NEPA the “National Environmental Protection Act.” It’s the National Environmental Policy Act. NEPA doesn’t provide substantive environmental protections, but mandates a process for public comment, disclosure, and environmental analysis for major federal actions. I’m not sure what his thoughts on “Lawyers & Foresters” have to do with megaloads in Wild and Scenic River corridors and tar sands extraction.

            • John: You’re right. I read through your response a little too quickly and basically read “effects” for “affects” and didn’t fully absorb your final sentence that you understood “some” are in disagreement.

              I have been a beneficiary of modern medicine for many years, as have most of us. It is nothing like climate science, either in history or in proven accomplishments. I wish the traditional “scientific method” was at the basis of climate science, but it is not. Think of all of the millions of people who have been harmed or killed by well-intentioned medical practitioners through the centuries. Climate science gives us “models” in their stead. One discipline is practical and oft-proven, based on significant field evidence, and the other is theoretical and speculative, based on computer printouts. It’s not a “trust” issue; it’s the actual track record.

              Bill was in his early 90’s and got his acronym wrong, which IS unusual for him — he has the closest thing to a photographic memory of anyone I ever met. I’ve been doing much worse with the things for decades, and try to avoid them as a result. The lawyers vs. foresters observation should be obvious. Bill thinks forest policy and management decisions should be in the hands of foresters, not lawyers in courtrooms — a belief shared by many others. That’s what it has to do with megaloads and with a lot of other related topics as well.

              • Medical science.. well.. ultimately self-correcting.. another New Scientist article here:

                Depression’s reality has been questioned ever since it was first referred to as “melancholia”, but the emergence of apparently miraculous antidepressants in the 1980s seemed to turn things around, demonstrating conclusively that depression had a firm biological basis. Their supposed success in “correcting” serotonin levels was widely lauded, with their transformative effects described in bestselling books like Elizabeth Wurtzel’s groundbreaking Prozac Nation.

                But over the past decade, it has become clear that up to half of those treated with Prozac and similar drugs do not in fact get better. One response has been to cast such patients as “treatment-resistant”, rather than branding the treatments themselves as ineffective – although a fuller analysis of the clinical trial data suggests such medications may never have been all that effective.

                This adds to the confusion over the status of depression – and has led some big pharmaceutical companies to retreat from drug development, leaving sufferers with even less hope of relief.

                But that withdrawal has itself spurred on development of novel treatments – some of which have succeeded in helping those whose lives have been blighted by otherwise “untreatable” depression (see “Fixing broken brains: a new understanding of depression”).

                These treatments, and the new thinking they prompt, may help
                refine understanding of the mechanisms that underlie depression – and so offer hope that goes far beyond their original subjects. A new chapter may be opening in the story of this most misunderstood of illnesses.

                We see in both perhaps, the bias of those with theories to see what they want to see (“treatment-resistant”) and follow science-fads. But medical science is in a world where decisions are made by patients and practitioners..(and most notably insurance companies).

                Decisions about what to do with climate science are also personal (solar panels) and public (what the US or Canada should do).. so the science is both less empirical and more potentially impactful to public policy. This attracts funding, attention, power, and egos.. and so it goes.

                • I’m pretty sure public policy comes into play with medical science, too, in the form of immunization requirements, regulation of mercury emissions, approval of pharmaceuticals, etc. And certainly medical research attracts funding, attention, etc. I’d even guess computer printouts and models have been used in medical research. Field evidence seems to be accumulating to document changes in climate. Different areas of study require different research techniques, and technology changes further prompt different ways to analyze data. The scientific method components of question, hypothesis, prediction, testing, and analysis, not to mention data sharing, replication, and peer review, all seem to be part of climate research. But about those megaloads….

        • John… in the Wild and Scenic world, it has a road through it. So I don’t think it’s wild, it’s scenic and recreational.

          So let’s take a look at the IRU in their own words.

          The shipments would without question pose a significant disruption to the tourism and recreation-based economy of the Highway 12 corridor, which is home to more than 150 small businesses. Since 1998, according to a 2009 study by Headwaters Economics, travel and tourism employment in Idaho and Clearwater counties grew by 29 percent, which is faster than the state and nation. Disrupted activities on the Highway 12 corridor would include whitewater rafting and quiet water canoeing, camping, bird watching, hiking, hunting and fishing. Disruptions to small business would run the gamut of enterprises in the area.

          • The potential for Big Oil’s permanent reliance on the lower Snake River as a transportation corridor poses an unacceptable risk to recovery of Idaho’s wild salmon and steelhead. The Clearwater and Lochsa rivers are vital habitat for salmon and ESA-listed steelhead and bull trout, and many more endangered stocks pass through the lower Snake River en route to Idaho’s abundant wilderness habitat in the Salmon River drainage. Idaho’s once-mighty runs of anadromous fish are an indelible part of the state’s ecology and culture, and reliance by ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Harvest Energy and others on the lower Snake River corridor for transportation of megaloads must be stopped if salmon recovery is ever to succeed.

          • Megaloads are very different from everyday oversized loads, which also require special permits. IRU supports the status quo, which includes occasional movement of mobile homes, logging trucks and other large equipment and apparatus necessary to contribute the local economy in north Idaho and throughout the state. What we’re talking about in the megaloads is very different. It is patently ridiculous to equate megaloads built on the Pacific Rim and trucked to Canada—completely bypassing Idaho and barely benefiting the local economy—to everyday inside-the-region commerce.

          IRU’s own argument is that there are all kinds of oversized loads, but the ones benefiting Idaho are OK. Their logic seems to say that the megaloads are “very different”. But it seems unclear as to why they think so other than they are larger and taller. You don’t have to be an expert to say “bigger and taller than other loads that are OK”, and wonder what specific additional impact does that have. Oh, they’re uglier, and they pass through at night. But how does that disrupt scenic values? Except for people who see in the dark? Oh, they will also disrupt birdwatching and fishing by people who do those activities at night? It seems like quite a stretch. And the fish will notice how long a trailer is passing by? There are many assertions in the IRU’s words on their website but it is hard for me to see their logic path from the actual loads to what they see as the impacts.

          I understand and agree with the problem of AGW. But I think we would do better by being a positive example and bringing low cost renewable energy to everyone in the world than trying to tell other countries what to do.

  5. Curioser and curioser, said Alice. I say stop all megaloads in the name of Gaia and to preserve the world’s ecosystem from destruction!! (I can’t believe that adults are writing these posts. Perhaps precocious children involved in some esoteric fantasy?)

  6. Whether you agree with those comments or not, there is a lot of anger and frustration in this neck of the woods over this. Some of us just don’t like the way the IDT rolls over whenever some corporation giant says “…we want this…”. And, of course, if a megacorp wants it, then they almost always get it, whether its so-called rights to be a “person”, or just a simple demand to use a narrow, winding, two-lane forest roadway in a manner that boosts their profits. Profits that will be hidden away overseas, so as to prevent taxes being assessed.
    Personally I don’t buy into the spiritual aspects as some people, but there was absolutely no reason why these mega-loads couldn’t have been designed in small enough sections that allowed hauling on the interstate routes.
    Highway 12 was NEVER designed for this kind of misuse.
    It is sheer greed. Greed for the company that manufactured them, greed from the port of Lewiston that surely wooed the loads thru their facility, political greed from Boise politicians that will undoubtedly be “repaid” in electioneering contributions from those profiting.
    Disgusting, in my view.

  7. Agreed Mac….most of us that watch the loads go by say, “huh….look at that”. Then go back about things….in much the same way as when a giant yacht destined for the coast or other routine “large” loads go down the highway. It’s fairly obvious that the resentment to these particular trucks stems from the connection to the tar sands.

    What’s really hypocritically pitiful is that NONE of the “protesters” in this case ever try to stop the endless procession of diesel hauling semi’s that travel the highway and routinely wind up off the road…to the point that there are semi-permanent pump stations to pump diesel out of the ditch within the “wild and scenic river corridor” (hey, the pre-fab shed looks great!). I guess that’s just commerce and the price of business though?

    I find it extremely disdainful that the “protestors” ignore the true threats to the WSR (everyday diesel hauling semi’s) and instead focus on an innocuous hunk of metal destined for a faraway place. The discussions of the Tar Sands should’nt be involved here though.

    TB – Please cite the law/rule/reg that the FS would use to “halt” the “megaloads”.

  8. What I find hypocritical, is the fact that it is very likely that wherever you fill up your gas tank along the “Wild and Scenic river” it most likely has “tar sands” in it already. The “refined product Yellowstone pipeline” runs from the Billings refineries to Spokane. While it’s a trade secret, it’s no secret that the Billing’s refineries get a huge proportion of their crude from “tar sands oil.”

    So…perhaps those opposed to dirty oil should vote with their pocket book and demand their gasoline comes from politically correct “non tar sands” oil. I see a great “niche” business opportunity here…of course you would have to truck in gasoline from far away refineries that use politically correct crude…and of course you’d have to pay much much higher prices for it, most likely about the same price per gallon as Europeans pay, but hey, money’s no object when you’re doing your part to protect the environment. Right? We could call it “free range gasoline”!…or maybe “green gasoline.” Or it is possible, that with such a “ground swell” of consumer support because we know this outrage isn’t limited to a fringe element, the Billings refineries could see a marketing advantage and produce and market Green Gasoline. So who’s with me on this? I hear crickets.

    I admire these people taking the day off from work to stand up for their beliefs. But the biggest thing environmentalism has going for it is self actualization(do they still use that term). People love to stand up, for others to see them, and proclaim that they “stand for the environment.” Nobody stands up for cheaper gas. But let’s face it, the biggest “personal” sacrifice for the environment these same people make is recycling aluminum cans. There are “alternative housing” options out there. “Straw bale” houses, “rammed earth homes,” “steel and concrete (LEED certified), but they all cost more…and “resale value” is dubious. And yet, I’m gonna guess that every enviro on this blog lives in a wood home. Perhaps when you demonstrate a personal financial sacrifice for the environment, you might get more respect. You’ve been very successful at reducing, or I should say MOVING, the supply side, but reducing the “demand” side has been a dismal failure.

    Medical science is different from climate science in that medical science has proven results. I too am a beneficiary of medical science. My spine would have “fused” years ago if not for medical science. Climate scientists can’t tell us with any certainty what caused the “Litte Ice Age,” but they can tell us with certainty that human caused climate science is settled. Frankly, a lot of enviro science is based on “could cause or might happen.” So you have a science where the results are not necessary. What better way to frame your argument. It’s like the whole ecological thing. It’s a healthy ecosystem if you have old growth forests, it’s a healthy ecosystem if wildfire cooks off the old growth. It’s “win-win” argument either way. When you frame the debate that way, who can lose.

    Anyway…I just remembered it’s time to do my injection of ENBREL. Thank you for the science Amgen!

  9. Highway 12 does not go through nationally designated wilderness but the highway and rivers it follows run along the northern border of the nationally designated Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. The reporter using the word “wilderness” was using the word with a small “w,” meaning the highway runs through wild forests and mountains and immediately alongside wild rivers. The route the oil companies are attempting to commandeer does run through a a nationally designated Wild & Scenic River corridor, the nationally designated Nez Perce National Historic Park, and is the nationally designated Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, the Nez Perce National Historic Trail, the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway, and is one of the nation’s 30 nationally designated All-American Roads. Highway 12, in other words, is remarkably beautiful and wild and is the single route to numerous native and non-native historical sites and trails. Allowing Big Oil to industrialize it as their megaload truck route to the tarsands would be a travesty and tragedy. Also, although Omega Morgan has said it is proposing 10 megaloads for transport on U.S.12, they have also said there will be more loads — for years to come. In 2010 ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil proposed 200+ Korean-built loads for just Phase I of their Kearl tarsands operation. Citizens, by the way, blocked those loads. Several other tarsands operations and their transporters have proposed many more loads. Tarsands operations predict they will continue tarsands bitumen extraction for, at the least, 50 years. In other words, Big Oil is proposing to industrialize the exceptionally pristine Lochsa-Clearwater Wild & Scenic Hwy.12 corridor as their truck route to the tarsands for 50 years and more. But citizens who know and love the beautiful wild country and rivers through which the route runs will resist.

  10. I tried to go back to the LA Times story link… I think it was all capitalized because it was a headline.

    I have been on the road (in a truck camper, guilt-free), as have many other readers and commenters, so you don’t need to explain to me what it looks like.

    I keep asking the question “what is this really about?” or “what environmental impacts does the FS person assigned to this project have to describe?”

    1. Answer . Bigger and longer trucks have greater environmental impacts than the current oversized loads, even if they pass through at night and don’t require additional vegetation removal.

    My question… exactly what are these impacts?

    2. Answer. It’s OK for big long trucks to go on Hwy 12 if it’s for our economy (Idaho) but not for the Canadians. (this is the answer stated by the folks actually doing the litigating (IRU) so we must give it some credence)

    Well, OK, but that’s not an environmental concern, except about what the Canadians will do with the equipment. Conceivably oversized loads going around Idaho also carry things that have environmental impacts. Is this what they want the FS to analyze? Clearly they don’t really want the FS to analyze more stuff, they simply want them to say “no” to the shipments.

    Further, as the veteran of federal coal analysis, you may be required to analyze that if you don’t produce the coal (let the machinery move), someone else will, because coal plants are unlikely to shut down without a federal coal lease. But it is kind of silly to analyze all the possible places the power plant might hypothetically buy coal from, or all the other places this shipment might go through.

    So the impacts of the ultimate project don’t change. Does anyone think that the Canadians will stop the project if the US says no to Hwy 12?

    3.. Answer. It’s really not about these 10 loads; it’s about more loads in the future and setting a precedent. For 50 years.

    Well, that gives the FS lots of time to figure out if 200 foot loads to Montana are more OK, or 150 foot loads to Seattle…

    Gaack! None of these answers are very satisfying.. they all seem evasive.

    I have seen what “industrialization” looks like to many people. Some people think it’s an oil or gas well that runs for 20 years. Some people think it’s a methane drainage well, which looks like a giant air- conditioner in a shed that’s there for 3-5 years. But no one I’ve talked to says that “industrialization” looks like something that happens for a couple of hours at night and is gone by daylight.

    But that term raises even more questions..would a cat on a flatbed be “industrial”? Because those go by during daylight hours and don’t have to be particularly long.

    If I had to guess about this, I would say the real issue is people who want to make a ruckus about the tar sands (and Big Oil) and managed to drag the FS into it through a legal hook (the WSR status). Which maybe a brilliant legal tactic, but it doesn’t resonate well with folks like me who look at FS budgets and sequestration, and would prefer the FS to be managing real environmental impacts, not analyzing hypothetical ones.


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