There is no Wild and Scenic River on this side of the Bitterroots, but Northern Rockies Rising Tide has resurfaced to loosely organize Montana’s resistance to the Omega Morgan megaload that entered the state last week.
“We’re doing it largely to show solidarity with the Nez Perce nation and what they’re standing up for,” organizer Steven Schorzman said Monday.
The Montana chapter of a national activist group last made its presence known on the megaload front in March 2011 when protesters temporarily blocked a massive Conoco Phillips load bound for Billings as it rolled up Reserve Street from Idaho.
Schorzman and others put out word over the weekend urging others to join a gathering Monday night at 10:30 p.m. in front of C.S. Porter Middle School on Reserve, when they expected the current Omega Morgan shipment to pass through Missoula.
They hurriedly amended the plan Sunday when they got information that the truck bound for the Hangingstone thermal oilsands project in northern Alberta was moving from its weekend stop near the top of Lolo Pass that night.
Some 30 to 40 people congregated in the Rosauer’s parking lot until two scouts who’d traveled up U.S. Highway 12 learned the megaload wasn’t moving.
“I’m currently trying to find out the travel plan for it tonight, whether or not it’s going,” Schorzman said Monday afternoon.
The 644,000-pound load – 244 feet long and 21 feet wide – was met by fierce resistance in Idaho last week. Nez Perce tribal officials, members and others staged blockades on each of the four nights it moved across the reservation and up the Clearwater and Lochsa rivers on Highway 12. More than 30 people were arrested during the orchestrated demonstrations, including most of the Nez Perce tribal council when the load approached the reservation boundary east of Lewiston.
On Thursday the tribe and Idaho Rivers United sought a court-ordered roadblock of subsequent loads Omega Morgan is planning.
Schorzman said any action by Rising Tide and others in Missoula will be “kind of spontaneous.”
“Nothing specific is planned,” he said. “There were ideas and stuff discussed last night, which I imagine will be options today, but it’s not going to be anything confrontational.”
Rising Tide doesn’t have an active campaign going against the Omega Morgan shipments, and “we’re not necessarily looking for a full-time campaign,” Schorzman said.
He added the group wants to bring “energy and awareness to the general upswing of climate activism across the nation. We’re not targeting this specific company. We’re just getting people fired up about all this stuff.”
Sunday night’s gathering of protesters on Reserve Street was made up of a handful of Rising Tide members who’ve been meeting in Missoula for the past few months on other issues. Most were members of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai and Blackfeet tribes, as well as some who’ve relocated from Canada, according to Schorzman.
Facebook pages for Idle No More Montana and Northern Rockies Rising Tide are posting updates on the planned actions, and activist groups in Idaho are keeping encouraging tabs on their websites as well. Another group, All Against the Haul, which formed to protest the transport of more than 200 modules of oil/tar sands equipment by Imperial Oil/Exxon Mobil along the same Montana two-lane highways, reactivated last week.
Tribal officials in western Montana are monitoring the megaloads as well.
“The council is aware of the issue and options are under consideration but at this time there is nothing planned,” CSKT chairman Joe Durglo said Monday.
Omega Morgan’s route for a similar load in October led through Missoula after dark to an overnight stop at the Town Pump Truck Plaza in West Riverside. It continued up the Blackfoot River Valley the following night.
Montana Department of Transportation regulations prohibit the brightly lit megaload and its entrourage of pilot and guide vehicles from delaying traffic more than 10 minutes.