A federal judge has ordered U.S. Highway 12 closed to an Oregon shipper of tar sands processing equipment until the U.S. Forest Service completes a review.
U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill issued the injunction against Omega Morgan and the Idaho Department of Transportation Friday ahead of the company’s planned shipment of a second oversized “megaload” scheduled Sept. 18.
Winmill said the U.S. Forest Service should have carried out its authority to enforce the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act’s protection of the Middle Fork of the Clearwater River and the Lochsa River along the highway that has some of the most beautiful views of any road in the nation. He said Omega Mogan could not make any shipments until the Forest Service completed its review and consultation with the Nez Perce tribe, which brought the suit along with Idaho Rivers United.
Omega Morgan said General Electric, the company shipping the equipment, had no other option because its load is too high for overpasses on U.S. Interstate 90 to the north. It defied the Forest Service in early August and went ahead with the shipment amidst a series of protests on the highway by tribal members and other opponents.
Winmill specifically ruled that Omega Morgan put itself in a position to lose $5 million in the event the shipment was blocked by ignoring the Forest Service review. He also said the Forest Service was obligated to complete the review and consultation with the tribe.
U.S. 12 runs through the Nez Perce Reservation and blocks traffic on both lanes while the megaload is in route. The first load passed through without major incident beyond the protests.