A controversial mega-load shipment crossed the Idaho-Montana state line, just before 8 a.m. Pacific Daylight SavingTime this morning, following four days and nights of protests and one more thing: notice of a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court to make sure it doesn't happen again anytime soon. Idaho Rivers United filed the suit, along with the Nez Perce Tribe, which has pushed back against the oversized shipments rolling through tribal lands and the Clearwater-Lochsa Wild and Scenic River Corridor.
"We filed the suit last night, 10 p.m. Mountain Time," Kevin Lewis, IRU conservation director, told Boise Weekly. "We're suing the U.S. Forest Service on multiple issues and, yes, we gave a copy of that suit late last night to the driver working for Omega Morgan."
Omega Morgan is the Oregon-based hauler contracted to haul massive pieces of equipment across Idaho, into Montana and up to the Tar Sands Oil Project in Alberta, Canada.
"Quite simply, we're trying to clarify the U.S. Forest Service's statement that while they agree they have the authority to regulate these loads on the Wild and Scenic Corridor, they're unclear about how they can do that," Lewis said.
The U.S. Forest Service was told earlier this year by a U.S. District Court judge that it indeed had the responsibility to oversee the protection of the corridor, which includes the portion of U.S. Highway 12 that Omega Morgan is using to haul the mega-loads.
"Unfortunately, it looks like we have to go back into that courtroom to show the U.S. Forest Service that they can back up that authority," Lewis told BW. "I suspect there may be a hearing as early as next week."
And Lewis said that hearing can't come soon enough.
"As you know, there's a second load, just waiting at the Port of Lewiston, poised to travel across U.S. 12," said Lewis. "And Omega Morgan has said they have as many as 10 mega-loads to move."
Meanwhile, the Nez Perce Tribe, which has protested the mega-load movements every night this past week, said in a statement that it had "exhausted its avenues of diplomacy and outreach, but received no redress."
"The tribe is frustrated we have to take action in court to stop something that a court has previously ordered the Forest Service to actively regulate," said Nez Perce Executive Committee Chairman Silas Whitman. "But we feel we have been left with no other option."
Approximately 75 protesters met the mega-load overnight and early this morning near Milepost 120 of U.S. 12. That's where Omega Morgan needed to unhitch the mega-load from its rig and instead use a pull-cable to tug the shipment across Fish Creek Bridge. The bridge crossing took approximately 40 minutes and traffic was blocked for nearly 90 minutes during the staging and crossing.
You can read the full joint lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Boise, here: