The Idaho Department of Transportation caused a flurry of excitement for activists in Moscow, Idaho early Tuesday, Feb. 28. The agency said the shipping company Mammeot would be transporting three of the last megaloads that night. The alert changed later that afternoon, stating it would be just one.
Has the megaload saga finally come to a close?
Both announcements proved a false start. Due to bad weather, the loads were put on hold, as they had been repeatedly throughout February. But with Imperial Oil paying a monthly storage fee at the Port of Lewiston, expectations are high that the loads will move north soon, to Alberta's tar sands.
When they do, Helen Yost of Wild Idaho Rising Tide says the opposition will be ready to give them a fitting send-off. "We're hoping for some major civil disobedience, which of course I can't really disclose the particulars of," Yost says. "It's to the point where the citizens want our message to be heard more widely. We'd like a national audience, since we've been doing this so long."
Snowstorms aside, the megaloads have been hard-up for a win over the past year. Most recently, Judge Ray Dayton ruled Feb. 17 that the Montana Department of Transportation had violated environmental policy in approving Imperial's Kearl Module Transportation Project. The environmental review process is back at square one.
Idaho's megaload protesters have been particularly adept at getting under Imperial Oil's skin since starting up last July. In only three days last August, 10 of the group's members were arrested. It's the kind of citizen opposition Yost laments not seeing elsewhere along the megaloads' new interstate route.
Yost says she's torn about seeing the last loads roll through Moscow. Having the shipments in their backyard gave her group a platform from which to protest tar sands development. Yost fears people will lose sight of the bigger picture as the first chapter in the megaload story closes.
"In terms of fighting the tar sands, it could be trouble," she says. "I'm afraid, just from the dynamics I've seen over the last year, that people [in Idaho] will forget about the tar sands altogether."