There were some tense moments early today as Nez Perce Tribal leaders came face-to-face with Idaho State Police over a mega-load shipment, which was temporarily halted by a tribal protest.
Oregon-based Omega Morgan had received a permit from the Idaho Transportation Department, allowing the movement of a massive piece of oil equipment across U.S. Highway 12 in north central Idaho, which includes the Wild and Scenic Corridor along the Clearwater and Lochsa rivers. However, the U.S. Forest Service balked at the request, saying the mega-load did not meet its requirements because it would cause too many traffic restrictions and take too long to get to the Montana border. Omega's intended destination for the equipment is the Oil Sands of Alberta, Canada.
“I am appalled at Omega Morgan’s lack of respect for the Nez Perce people, for a nationally treasured river corridor and for the authority of the U.S. Forest Service,” said Idaho Rivers United Conservation Director Kevin Lewis. “Despite clear direction from the Forest Service that these loads are not authorized for movement along Highway 12, Omega Morgan is manufacturing a confrontation.”
And indeed there was a confrontation around 2 a.m. Nez Perce Tribal leaders stood their ground, shouting and drumming as the Omega Morgan rig pulled the mega-load near the tribe's Clearwater River Casino.
Idaho State Troopers and Nez Perce County Sheriff's deputies arrived on the scene and created a barrier of police vehicles to keep the protesters away as the mega-load continued to roll.
The Idaho Transportation Department's permit allows Omega Morgan to continue moving the mega-load in overnight shifts tonight, as well as Wednesday and Thursday, Aug. 7 and 8, when it is expected to arrive at the Montana state line.
Meanwhile, yet another mega-load awaits ITD approval to roll across the same stretch as early as next week. Omega Morgan has indicated that it has at least ten similar shipments.