The Nez Perce Tribe, along with then environmental group Wild Rivers United, has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service seeking to force the agency to stop a controversial oversized shipment of oil refinery equipment from passing through the Middle Fork Clearwater/Lochsa Wild and Scenic River corridor along U.S. Highway 12.
Oregon-based Omega Morgan is currently transporting a mega load that is 255 feet long, 21 feet wide, 23 feet tall, and weighs 644,000 pounds. The shipment is bound for the oil sands in Alberta, Canada.
The lawsuit seeks a temporary restraining order to force the U.S. Forest Service to prohibit the movement of all loads through the corridor that merit review based on criteria set forth by the government agency.
A federal judge has ruled that the Forest Service has authority to review megaload shipments through the Wild and Scenic River corridor that starts east of Kooskia.
Despite the lawsuit and three protests, the shipment continues to move east along the highway.
Forest Service officials have not addressed the lawsuit, but have stated their intent to discuss mega load permitting with the tribe as well as the Idaho Transportation Department and Governor Butch Otter’s office.
Omega Morgan is seeking to move a total of 10 oversized shipments over the two-lane highway through January.
Meanwhile, Idaho Governor Butch Otter remains supportive of the current mega load permitting process, even as it results in civil protests, arrests and now legal action.
Otter spokesman Jon Hanian said the governor has been briefed on the situation and feels the decision to issue permits for oversized loads is ultimately up to the Idaho Transportation Department, and in this case the agency “is following protocol.”
Idaho Transportation Department spokesman Jeff Stratten said the state agency will work with Forest Service officials to develop a memorandum of understanding that “defines the process for federal review of oversized load permits issued by the state.”
However, the governor’s office says that doesn’t mean it will cede responsibility for the permitting process.