Idaho environmentalist: U.S. 12 megaload shipments a 'mega-mistake'

Bill Sedivy, the executive director of Idaho Rivers United, wanted his shot at responding to state Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, on the U.S. 12 "megaloads."

Winder wrote a guest opinion supporting the controversial shipments, and said outside "noise" from environmental groups jeopardizes a program that could provide an economic boost to North-central Idaho.

In a letter to Gov. Butch Otter today, Sedivy decried the "back-room deal making" surrounding the state-permitted shipments of oversized oil equipment from the Port of Lewiston.

"We know now that the permitting of the megaloads has been a done deal for some time. Your Transportation Department has been working for years with ExxonMobil to make these changes to the river corridors complete. They hid the truth about road projects in the corridor funded by ExxonMobil. They found ways to keep the Forest Service from doing its job to protect the rivers, and the recreationists who use the rivers and the Forest.

"But Governor, it’s not too late for you to step up and do the right thing for the remarkable Clearwater River Basin and its people."

Here's the full letter to Otter:

In 1968, Senator Frank Church showed real leadership and vision when he included the Middle Fork of the Clearwater River, along with its Lochsa and Selway tributaries, among the first eight rivers protected under the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act. Here are a just a few reasons why these rivers were — and still are — considered nationally significant:

• They are recreational gems — coveted by Idahoans and visitors from across the nation for whitewater rafting and kayaking, and access to some of the finest camping, bird watching, hiking, hunting and fishing experiences in Idaho.

• They provide vital habitat for re-introduced salmon populations, and federally protected populations of wild steelhead and bull trout.

• The rivers and tributaries are important for wildlife, including deer, elk, otters, a variety of songbirds and unique waterfowl, like the spectacular Harlequin duck.

• The river corridors are important culturally and historically. They have provided hunting and fishing grounds, transportation corridors, village sites and special spiritual sites for the Nez Perce people for centuries. The rivers and the salmon they produced twice saved the Lewis & Clark Expedition from starvation.

The river corridors and the roadway that runs through them, U.S. Highway 12, also fuel an important tourism economy, one of few growing economic sectors in the Clearwater Basin in recent years. A nationally designated Scenic Byway and one of only 27 All-American Roads, Highway 12 itself brings thousands of visitors each year, including history buffs, cyclists, motorcycle riders and auto travelers from around the world.

Those unique attributes are just a few of the reasons that permitting the so-called megaloads along U.S. Highway 12 is a mega-mistake. The oil companies — among the most profitable in the world — have other options for getting equipment to their mine sites and refineries in Canada and Montana. The people of Idaho have only one Clearwater-Lochsa corridor.

These gargantuan loads, refinery drums bound for Billings, the mining equipment headed to Canada and the other ‘supersized’ loads that are sure to follow, will forever alter the scenic and peaceful character of this recreational and ecological Eden. The hundreds of permits sought by ExxonMobil are especially troublesome. They will block recreation opportunities and access to our National Forest and Wild & Scenic Rivers. They will alter spectacular scenery and increase danger for motorists using the winding Highway corridor at the height of the spring and summer tourist seasons. The meandering curves of Highway 12 and these pristine and protected rivers are not compatible with loads so large that they block traffic from both directions.

Protecting commerce, usual truck traffic and typical oversized loads is not the issue with the Conoco and ExxonMobil permits. The members of Idaho Rivers United accept the idea that Highway 12 is a gateway for commerce, as well as tourism and recreation on our public lands and rivers. But the Conoco and Exxon loads are extraordinary. At three stories tall, two lanes wide and up to 600,000 pounds each, these loads do not constitute the kind of normal highway use anticipated at the time of Wild & Scenic designation. The use of Highway 12 and the Wild & Scenic River corridors to move these massive shipments, does not, in our view, comply with State and Federal agreements and management plans calling for the protection of the Wild & Scenic corridor — and the recreational and scenic values those designations sought to protect.

The back-room deal making surrounding these loads has also been disturbing. Citizens were forced to go to court to have a say. But by then, it was too late. Decisions had already been made on the first of hundreds of megaloads bound for this corridor.

We know now that the permitting of the megaloads has been a done deal for some time. Your Transportation Department has been working for years with ExxonMobil to make these changes to the river corridors complete. They hid the truth about road projects in the corridor funded by ExxonMobil. They found ways to keep the Forest Service from doing its job to protect the rivers, and the recreationists who use the rivers and the Forest.

But Governor, it’s not too late for you to step up and do the right thing for the remarkable Clearwater River Basin and its people.

While the Conoco loads are moving, ExxonMobil’s proposed 207 loads have not yet been permitted. Please Governor, instruct your Transportation Department to listen to the concerns of citizens — not just corporations — in examining the next wave of loads. Listen to the cultural and historic concerns of the Nez Perce Tribe. Listen to the U.S. Forest Service, which opposes the loads, too. Please, encourage the Forest Service to undertake a thorough review of environmental, recreational, and Wild & Scenic Rivers Act concerns that have been raised.

The Clearwater and Lochsa Rivers are among Idaho’s most precious natural and recreational assets. Tell the oil companies that our most precious resources are not for sale. Put the brakes on the megaloads, until a meaningful social, economic and environmental assessment can be done.

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They should ship Bill NEXT.

NEXT!

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Happy Jesus Thing and a Chinese New Year

Nice Bill

Maybe the Gov will listen to you but I have my doubts. Frank Church has probably rolled over in his grave at the mere thought that Otter would go along with this.

Get a real job, Bill!

It appears as though some may finally be coming available (no thanks to Obama or the Dems) driving truck and in support positions, as well as harvesting and refining much needed black gold.

Oh but wait, all you big Liberal types are ANTI job arent you, as well as anti-energy.

Well then, never mind about that. As to these loads though, dont you worry that head of yours none, all the rocks and dirt along the route will be just fine, it isnt the end of the world regardless of how many tree-hugging granola-crunching freaks scream that it is.

Bend elbow

Owyhee, are you okay or just bending the elbow?

Sounds like BILLS been drinking

These loads wont significantly "alter" his "eden" or appreciably block access to anything, what a bunch of wild eyed craziness.

US 12

And when have you driven US 12 from Kooskia to Montana border? Do you even have a realistic concept of what a 23x29x266 ft 300 ton rolling roadblock does on a 2 lane road or to the bridges it crosses? Or to the citizens whose daily lives and businesses depend on US 12? Or to the environmental?

How would you like to have such a rolling roadblock coming down your road 5 evenings a week for the next 2 plus years? NIYBY but its okay in someone else's backyard and affecting someone else's business; after all its only out of state and foreign businesses using Idaho and US 12 as their own private roadway without compensation except for a $2,000 permit after 3 years of ITD expenditures. Hey, I know, Owyhee, how about you paying for the ITD budget expenses for the past 3 years for this.

Nice redirect

Now its the asphalt that the Birkenstock crowd is so deathly afraid for, which is kind of odd because without projects such as this there would be no asphalt. Beside that, these loads will be distributed over multiple axles and wheels, the damage to your precious tar and crushed rock will be negligible.

And four loads have been approved. Four!

Exaggerate much?

Can you say OOOOPS!

This is not a birkenstock crowd; these are 3rd and 4th generation area citizens who filed the lawsuit who own real property and have businesses along US 12.

No, the 4 loads have not been approved; only 2 loads have been issued permits at $2,000 apiece after 3 years of ITD expenditures.

AND BTW, did you happen to notice the OOOPS today when US 12 was closed for 59 minutes between Greer and Kamiah because the rolling roadblocks had problems negotiating one of the sharp curves the plaintiffs had expressed concern over? Good thing no one needed to go to the Orofino hospital or had a personal emergency.

And did you happen to read the rolling roadblocks are not proceeding Friday evening because of the weather so are parked until Monday possibly later.

AND all subsequent permits, including the matching one for this one, are on hold while ITD review and revises plans. Hope it doesn't take 3 plus years like it took to get to this plan.

Hey, drive up and take a look; it is parked at Kooskia by the bridge.

Next rolling roadblocks will be suggested to come through your country. Got a road preference?

They promise jobs and new businesses but so far zilch. Cafe and motel got some additional customers. And off duty ISP and offduty Lewiston EMTs got work and Lewiston Fire Dept. got $8,000 for use of its equipment. Don't know what Idaho got for use of ISP vehicles.

Let Exxon know what road; they've got 207 rolling roadblocks awaiting your input.

Ignorance is Bliss

Owyhee Do some research.. these 4 loads is only the beginning !! It will set a precedent and open this scenic river corridor up for many many more of these loads from other entities. But I am sure you will not agree that this will happen...because it is obvious you have not researched this issue.

Sedivy is right, these megaloads bring nothing to Idaho

but potential trouble - on an industrial scale.

Jobs? let's think about that for a moment. Equipment manufactured in Korea, barged upriver by boatmen from Portland, the loads bound for Montana and Canada. Aside from a couple of security guards at the Port of Lewiston, what does Idaho gain? Nada.

The values of a national Wild and Scenic River corridor far exceed any short-term value of these shipments.

Do the Tienamen human block!

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It's Chinese New Year now. Unfortunately it's been recalled.

Hwy 12/ Another concerned Citizen

The Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry is right —
transporting megaloads across Idaho is about jobs. Unfortunately
these are not American jobs, they are Asian jobs.
Providing a cheap transportation route across Idaho gives
manufacturers in Korea, Japan and China a further competitive
advantage over American manufacturers. The Asians already have cheap
labor. When Idaho and Montana give them our highways, they’ll have
cheap transportation as well.
Asians get billions of dollars worth of manufacturing jobs — yes,
billions — and the world’s most profitable corporations add billions
to their net profits. What do we get? A decline in tourism jobs,
traffic delays and additional fuel costs for our commercial
truckers, declining property values along Highway 12, and restricted
access to our wild rivers and public lands.
As the oil companies hire expensive lobbyists to influence our state
legislators, we’ll need to pay increased taxes to cover accelerated
rates of road damage caused by the megaloads. And we’d better get
used to not using highway turnouts for emergencies, driving breaks,
parking spots beside our rivers, or anything else. The ITD has
authorized the oil companies to barricade the turnouts for their
exclusive use.
Idaho bigwigs and lackey politicians call this “progress.” I call it
corporate greed and government stupidity.

BTW.. I think Owyhee is doing more than bending an elbow !!

Food For Thought

Just because a country or society is considered "ethical" does not mean everything it produces or exports is ethical. If we are going to delve into the ethics of the issue, we must look at the ethics of energy overall. That means considering the impacts of various energy systems on people and the environment.

Here, the science is troubling. It shows that the Alberta tar sands contribute to about five per cent of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions and are the country's fastest growing source of emissions. To date, they have disturbed 600 square kilometres of boreal forest with little or no chance of true reclamation, use enormous amounts of water, and pollute the surrounding air and water.

This past summer, an independent, peer-reviewed scientific study showed that toxic byproducts from the tar sands extraction industry are poisoning the Athabasca River , putting downstream First Nations communities and the fish they eat at risk. Health studies show these First Nations communities already have elevated rare cancers associated with exposure to such toxins.

If this is the most "ethical" source of oil we can find, we need to ask other questions about the moral purity of our intensively processed bitumen. For example, if we sell the oil to countries with poor human-rights records, like China, does that affect the product's "ethical" nature? And how "ethical" are the companies operating in the tar sands; for example, Exxon Mobil, well-known sponsor of climate-change disinformation campaigns; BP, responsible for last year's massive oily disaster in the Gulf of Mexico; or PetroChina? There's also the effect of greenhouse gas emissions on our children and grandchildren, which to me is an intergenerational crime.

In this light, wouldn't energy from technologies or sources that limit the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change and that have a minimal environmental and health impacts be far more ethical than fossil fuels? And, from an economic perspective, wouldn't these more ethical technologies or fuel sources be doubly attractive to foreign buyers if they came from an "ethical" country like Canada?

As award-winning Alberta author Andrew Nikiforuk  has argued, with proper development, the tar sands could help provide Canada with the oil and money we need to shift to a low-carbon economy. But major changes are needed. Environmental regulation and monitoring must be strengthened. Pollution and related health problems must be addressed. More of the revenue must go to Canadians rather than fossil fuel companies. And a national carbon tax would help us move from oil to less-polluting energy sources.

The problem is, no matter what Ezra Levant and his friends in government say, oil has never been about "ethics". It has always been about money. Those who argue the case for "ethical oil" should work to ensure that our energy needs are met in a truly ethical way, now and into the future. In the end, the only truly ethical solution is to phase out oil. The black eye that tar sands oil is sporting can't be remedied with meaningless phrases such as "ethical oil".

To be seen as truly ethical when it comes to energy policy, Canada must slow down tar sands development, clean up the environmental problems, implement a national carbon tax, improve the regulatory and monitoring regime, and make sure that Canadians are reaping their fair share of the revenues. We must also start taking clean energy seriously. Rather than subsidizing the tar sands and all the fossil fuel industry through massive tax breaks, we should be investing in energy technologies that will benefit our health, economy, and climate.