The Latest: Megaloads to Alberta incite protests

  • Nez Perce protesters form a human blockade to stop a megaload.

    Lewiston Mail Tribune/Steve Hanks

South Korean-made mining equipment destined for Alberta's tar sands is too massive to squeeze under interstate overpasses. So energy companies propose to float it up the Columbia and Snake Rivers to Lewiston, Idaho, and then haul it up narrow Highway 12, which winds along federally protected rivers and over the Continental Divide into Montana. That requires moving power lines and traffic lights all the way into Canada. In 2010, an ExxonMobil subsidiary's plan for 207 megaloads threatened to overwhelm the highway (HCN, 6/16/10, "Monstertruck alley").

Since then, around a dozen megaloads from different companies have drawn protests and lawsuits from Idaho and Montana environmental groups. Last winter, a federal judge ruled that the Forest Service has authority to review permits. But when the most recent 255-foot-long road hog bound for Alberta rolled up Highway 12 in August, the shipping company defied a Forest Service letter saying it didn't have permission. The Nez Perce Tribe protested the haul, slowing its progress through their territory for four days. With more on the way, the Nez Perce and Idaho Rivers United promptly sued the Forest Service again.

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