Forest Services shuts down U.S. 12 to megaloads for good . . . again

Closure order published Sept. 18 for section through the Lochsa-Clearwater Wild and Scenic River corridor-

There was a similar headline about a month ago. Then Omega-Morgan transport, aided by a permit from Idaho Department of Transportation and law enforcement, bullied their way through the corridor. The Forest Service backed down in the face of this onslaught, ejecting obscuring clouds of papers, proposed studies, and excuses.

Opponents of the megaloads again went to federal court in Idaho. Idaho federal district judge Winmill told the Service in no uncertain terms that they were to order the corridor closed to megaloads. So now they complied. Here is a link to a short AP story.

So the megaload story and dreams of an industrial highway to the Alberta tar sand pits through wild heart of Idaho are dead, a stake in their heart . . . maybe?



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  1. Kevin Lewis Avatar

    Let’s just say it’s one more brick in the wall.

  2. cobackcountry Avatar

    One can only hope. So far I have yet to find reason or hope from Idaho’s law enforcement, or from the various governing bodies involved.

  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan

    The Spokesman-Review has a good editorial about the ruling and FS action.

    Editorial: Thorough, fair ruling for U.S. 12 megaloads

  4. Dannie Avatar

    There is a saying that the business of America is business. There are those that would see industry and corporate America run amok, unfettered, though what is left of our nation’s wilds. These days the business of America is giving everyone the business. I for one do not want the bad old days back where rivers once burned. I remember those days.

  5. WM Avatar

    OK, so the FS goes back into hiding. Afterall, they have been avoiding a review of the mega-load transports for how long now – first we don’t have authority; then a lame, “we don’t approve, and we gotta study this, but won’t stop the loads;” then, we’ll study it and render a decision because the judge says we have to under the law, and everything stops until we are done.

    How long will this take? No hint of that under the judge’s ruling, and apparently the FS isn’t saying, though they have wasted a lot of time trying to figure out what they are supposed to do under the law (and that has to chafe the crotch of the likes of big corporations like GE who like time-efficient decisions that don’t adversely affect the bottom line for shareholders).

    Will the outcome be to not let them haul (heck how many loads have gone thru without incident so far?)?

    Does closing the road for a few hours every couple months really adversely affect a Recreational classified river,least restricitive under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act which has considerable leaway for activities under existing FS guidance – a roadway that already sees hundreds of logging trucks, fuel trucks, cargo rigs, and thousands of cars every week, tractor-trailers already over-sized, occasionally; and where the infrastructure (power lines, trees, pullouts, etc.) have already been modified to allow the mega-loads. Weight really isn’t an issue because all you do is add more wheels to distribute less per wheel. What Native American values will be affected by this any more than the other stuff (what is the difference between a vehicle taking up two lanes, as compared to many smaller ones, going much faster and maybe makingmore noise and whatever?

    To be clear, I don’t much like the idea of this roadway used for mega-loads, mostly for the same reasons a lot on this forum don’t like it.

    However, will the FS really have a substantive legal basis (even after consultation with the Nez Perce Tribe thru their reservation and treaty burdened lands within the National Forest) to deny mega-loads on this roadway (already tried and proven it can handle them), on a federal highway using an easement now mostly operated by the states of ID and MT highway departments?

    After the FS review is complete, will they actually choose to stop mega-loads, place restrictions {their current leaning}, or allow them unfettered?

    1. Nancy Avatar

      “It is a wise rule to resist the beginnings of evil”'s_nose

  6. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    my guess: Clem is exerting a full house press to let them do this because they are dumping a significant “campaign contribution” into his war chest.

  7. CodyCoyote Avatar

    In a parallel situation , it was the Shoshone National Forest’s threat of delaying a long drawn out mega-load plan in northwest Wyoming by employing a full-on NEPA environmental assessment that caused its demise. None other than the State of Montana’s own DEQ wanted to use Wyoming’s premier scenic highway the Chief Joseph Highway connecting Cooke City Montana to ( almost ) Cody WY as an industrial haul road for mine waste. They wanted to send about 1500 double bellydump trucks full of mine tailings to a smelter near Butte, half a million tons of the acidic stuff. The MT DEQ had not even bothered to run this proposal by anyone in Wyoming, state or federal. The Chief Joseph Scenic Highway is wholly a state highway and its flagship tourism corridor connecting the Cody area, northeast entrance of Yellowstone Park, and the BEartooth All American Road together.

    Once the Montana plan to usurp a Wyoming scenic highway became known ( youc an thank me for that ) , a coalition of state and federal agencies and politicos drove a stake into its heart. The killer was the Shoshone Forest saying the hauling could not go forward till after a NEPA assessment was done and signed off, a two year process at the very least. Funny that the Montana state DEQ had not considered that angle.

    It’s the only time I’ve seen a national forest local staff stand up to a large project on the merits, face to face with another large agency , and win.

    I hope the blocking of Idaho’s desire to use US 12 as an industrial parkway by the Forest Service is also permanent. The big corporations take too much for granted, and states have too long paid obeisance to them. It’s not just about the money , after all.

    1. Ida Lupine Avatar
      Ida Lupine

      You said it! I don’t know why big corporations seem intent upon ruining nature at every opportunity, especially where they don’t have to.

  8. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan

    General Electric has appealed Judge Winmill’s ruling. See at the Helena Independent Record.

    I learned that perhaps the primary reason why there is some Idaho support for megaloads is due to the declining importance of the Lewiston, Idaho seaport. Yes, 900 miles inland, Idaho has a seaport for barges that come up the Columbia River then the Snake River. Built and maintained at a very high cost, this seaport was always a pork barrel project according to its critics.

    Business at the port is slowly declining, year after year because those transporting things downriver find the railroad and interstate highway more efficient for their needs. Securing megaload traffic by barge would be a way of keeping the port open, though storing and moving one big piece of equipment up Highway 12 every so often must not generate much employment — unloading, rent for place to store it for a short period, and a small crew to move it up the Highway, assuming public protests don’t generate the need for a large crew and public assisted law enforcement.

    This, however, is not real economic growth of the free market kind, but more government subsidized growth over publicly maintained waterways, highways, and police to keep the native folks supressed.

    1. Ida Lupine Avatar
      Ida Lupine

      It sounds like reluctance to give up a method of transport that no longer has relevance to the modern world or is practical – like some older dams. We talk progress on the one hand, but on the other are reluctant to move forward.

  9. SaveBears Avatar

    Actually, river transport is still the best for certain types of cargo such as this stuff, what is messed up is the land portion of these loads.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan

      As a transportation hub, the small twin cities of Lewiston, Idaho and across the Snake River, Clarkston, Washington make no sense as more than a local center.

      Lewiston, which is at the mouth of the Snake River’s Hells Canyon, where it meets the Clearwater River, is the lowest point in Idaho.

      The two rivers meetin in a broad, but fairly deep canyon. To Lewiston’s east it is all deeper canyons and a maze of mountains until you reach Montana. From a small portion to its north, a highway twists 2000 feet down into the canyon — U.S. 95 on the “Lewiston Grade.” Down comes traffic from Moscow, Idaho and some places on the agricultural Palouse region of Idaho-Washington.

      From the south U.S. 95 also drops down to Lewiston, though more gently bringing traffic from the lightly populated Camas Prairie and often steep (think whitebird Hill) country further to the south.

      Highway 93 winds its way slowly up the lower Snake River canyon from Washington state to the west.

      These are not interstate highways leading to a mighty commerce center. Traffic down U.S. 12 in the extremely mountainous canyon from the east has always been controversial. The fact that Congress could make a long stretch of U.S. 12 part of a Wild and Scenic Rivers corridor indicates it was never thought of as a serious commercial highway by most folks.

      Rather than me describing more, folks should just look at the location on Google Earth. I think that tells the story of a place that is just not the location of a commerce center at some crossroads of the West.

      1. SaveBears Avatar

        Ralph, I was not referencing the area, which I am very familiar with, just addressing using the river system for transportation of large loads like this. Now the problem comes when you look at the overland route that these loads have to take upon completion of the river transport and the type of terrain as well as the impacts.

        As you said, this is a local transport center designed for grain shipments and such, it was never designed for what has gone on the last couple of years.

        1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
          Ralph Maughan

          Save Bears,

          Yes, indeed. I was just explaining the area to those who might not be familiar.

  10. Kevin Lewis Avatar

    Yesterday, Judge Winmill denied reconsideration of his megaload injunction. The ball is in G.E. and the Forest Service’s court if they want to make a run at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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