BOISE, Idaho — A giant shipment of oil refinery equipment bound for Canada through a scenic northern Idaho river corridor resumed its journey late Tuesday, despite a second straight night of protests.
The load started moving very slowly as Idaho State Police, Nez Perce County sheriff's deputies and Nez Perce Tribal Police urged protesters to stay off U.S. Highway 12, The Lewiston Tribune reported.
Law enforcement officers made at least two new arrests, the newspaper said.
Protesters tossed rocks — from softball size to basketball size — into the road in front of the truck carrying a 225-foot-long water purification unit.
Police and shipping company employees quickly removed the rocks.
Protesters on hand Tuesday night included children and elderly tribal members.
The first of two planned megaloads pulled out of a Washington port late Monday and was halted by a legion of protesters just outside of Lewiston, Idaho.
Authorities said 20 protesters — including eight members of the Nez Perce Tribe — were arrested, jailed and charged with misdemeanors for disturbing the peace.
The load is headed for an oil sands project in Alberta, Canada.
The shipment and its hauler, Oregon-based Omega Morgan, ended the first leg of the trip Tuesday morning, about 25 miles short of its planned stopping point along U.S. 12.
Tribal leaders said they anticipated more protests as the shipment moved deeper into the reservation and along a winding highway that passes through a federally designated Wild and Scenic River corridor.
"The Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee remains opposed to the transport and will continue to work with all federal and elected officials to see these loads are not hauled through the reservation," said tribal chairman Silas Whitman, who was among the eight Nez Perce members arrested in the first night of protests.
Meanwhile in Boise, attorneys for Idaho Rivers United were considering all legal options for short-circuiting the Omega Morgan load and called the company's decision to ignore federal officials and begin its trek across the state irresponsible.
The group filed a federal lawsuit in 2011 accusing the U.S. Forest Service of neglecting its duty under the 1968 Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to protect the corridor when ExxonMobil Corp. sought to move big, heavy equipment up the roadway. In February, a federal judge sided with IRU, concluding forest supervisors have authority to review state-issued travel permits for over-legal loads.
On Monday, Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest Supervisor Rick Brazell sent a letter urging Omega Morgan to delay the shipment until agency officials could review travel plans and consult with tribal leaders.
"The companies shipping this load have disrespected the Nez Perce Tribe, the Forest Service, a federal judge and the law, and it will not stand," said Kevin Lewis, IRU's conservation director.
Forest Service officials said Tuesday they were taking a wait-and-see approach. The shipment was not expected to reach forest boundaries until Wednesday night.
Omega Morgan spokeswoman Olga Haley said the company is committed to doing its job professionally and with what it believes is the appropriate permits.
The latest shipment is smaller in size and weight than the ExxonMobil loads but still big enough to stir the passions of those opposed to seeing big trucks pass through the picturesque highway that traces the Lochsa and Clearwater rivers.
Omega Morgan received a permit from the Idaho Transportation Department on Friday to ship a pair of the water purification units, which are 21 feet wide and weigh 644,000 pounds, across the state, up Lolo Pass into Montana and ultimately to the oil sands project in Canada.
The shipments can only move at night and in the early morning.
When ITD issued the permits, agency officials urged Omega Morgan to consult with the Forest Service but also made the permit valid for transport starting Monday night.