UPDATE: Megaload will move overnight Monday, then idle for holiday

kmoeller@idahostatesman.comDecember 29, 2013 

The megaload of oil production equipment traveling across Idaho moved from the Elmore County town of Hammett on Sunday night to Cat Creek Summit on U.S. Highway 20 — that's about 26 miles west of Fairfield, according to the Idaho Transportation Department. The leg covered 40 miles of highway.

The gigantic shipment was in Hammett until just after 10 p.m. Sunday. It stopped at Cat Creek Summit just after 3 a.m., and it's expected to resume travel after 10 p.m. Monday night, if weather permits.

It won't travel on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day but will resume its slow journey around 10 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 2.

Also on Thursday, a second megaload equipment shipment is expected to enter Idaho. That shipment is now traveling eastbound in Oregon.

The megaloads are being handled by Portland-based transport company Omega Morgan and are expected to travel from 35 to 100 miles per day, Omega Morgan spokeswoman Holly Zander said Sunday. Megaload travel is restricted to the hours of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and may not impede motorists on Idaho highways for more than 15 minutes at a time.

The first megaload spent six days in Marsing. More than 100 people, including a handful of protesters, turned out to see the 380-foot, 450-ton load before it finally left Marsing on Idaho Highway 78 late Saturday, according to Idaho State Police. There were no major problems Saturday night, and no tickets were issued, ISP spokeswoman Teresa Baker said Sunday.

The megaload — the first of three massive shipments coming through Idaho en route to Canada — arrived at U.S. Highway 95 and Idaho Highway 55 in Marsing early last week. It stayed there all week due to the Christmas holiday and fog later in the week.

Adam Rush, a spokesman for the Idaho Transportation Department, said the transportation permit for large loads (in excess of 10 feet wide, 100 feet long or 14.6 feet high) may not travel after 4 p.m. on the day preceding a major holiday (New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day). Travel is permitted at dawn the day after the holiday.

Environmental and tribal groups have protested the controversial megaload, which is being moved 500 miles from Portland to the tar sands oil region of western Canada. Environmentalists are concerned about air pollution caused by production of oil from the tar sands, and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation is upset they weren't consulted about the shipment.

The megaload was moved by barge on the Columbia River from Portland to the Port of Umatilla. It's first night of ground transport was supposed to be Dec. 1, but protesters locked themselves to the truck, Zander said.

"They had to take the truck apart," she said of the delay. From there it went to Pendleton, and then on to Vale. The shipment was delayed a couple hours in John Day, where protesters put a disabled vehicle in the street and chained themselves to it. There was another similar road block down the road, Zander said.

But so far in Idaho, things have been pretty quiet. The massive load hasn't caused any damage to the road or other structures, Rush said.

"There's a lot of planning and information gathering that goes into the issuance of each permit. Safety is the department's number one priority," he said.

Katy Moeller: 377-6413

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