BOISE — About 75 opponents of the Highway 12 megaload shipments in north Idaho convened at the Idaho Capital on Wednesday, Feb. 2, to protest the two-lane-wide, three-story-tall, 600,000-pounds of oil refinery equipment that began crawling up the Clearwater and Locha rivers Tuesday night.
Those gathered delivered more than 175 letters of protest to Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter.
“These letters are from everyday Idahoans and other folks in the region who took the time to sit down and write the governor about an issue they find troubling,” said IRU Executive Director Bill Sedivy. “They find it troubling that America’s first Wild & Scenic Rivers are being compromised. They find it troubling that citizens had to take their state to court for a public conversation on how public resources are being used. And they are hoping for a higher degree of public scrutiny from their Governor as the state begins considering the permitting of 207 more megaloads for ExxonMobil.”
Primarily from Idahoans, the letters were also penned by residents of Oregon, Washington, New York, Montana, Colorado and Australia. They were from families, business owners, boaters and anglers. And though in different individual words, they spoke with a common voice of opposing the conversion of U.S. Highway 12 into an industrial high-and-wide corridor.
“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,” Sedivy said. “These gargantuan loads, refinery drums bound for Billings, the mining equipment headed to Canada and other supersized loads that are sure to follow, will forever alter he scenic and peaceful character of the corridor.”
Sedivy said that IRU is not opposed to typical trucking or the shipments of many oversized loads on Highway 12, but pointed out that the ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil loads are different.
“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,” he said. “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 Clearwater and Lochsa rivers are among Idaho’s most precious natural and recreational assets.
“Governor Otter should tell the oil companies that our most precious resources are not for sale,” Sedivy said. “Put the brakes on the megaloads until a meaningful social, economic and environmental assessment can be done.”