Nez Perce Tribe Applauds ‘Megaloads’ Decision

By Jessica Robinson

The Nez Perce Tribe says a federal ruling Friday will help maintain the integrity of its ancestral lands in Idaho. A federal judge in Boise ordered the Forest Service to temporarily close a portion of Highway 12 to extra-high, extra-wide shipments known as “megaloads.” The Nez Perce and the group Idaho Rivers United sued after Oregon-based shipper Omega Morgan used the route to move a huge water purifier bound for Alberta's oil sands.

Brooklyn Baptiste is a member of the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Council. He says the federal government has an obligation to protect the wild and scenic corridor where many sacred sites are located.

Brooklyn Baptiste: “So it's definitely special to us, not only historically, but we still continue to use this in modern day times for commerce and our people still use it for harvesting … and so for us, we didn't want to see it into an industrial corridor.”

Baptiste was among 28 tribal members arrested and charged with public nuisance for blocking the passage of “megaload” shipment in August.

The subsidiary of General Electric that manufactured the water evaporator said in a statement it was disappointed with the judge's ruling to delay its shipments. The company says this particular piece of equipment makes oil refineries more environmentally friendly and water-efficient.

Shippers see the narrow byway as a prime route for moving huge oil equipment to Canada's oil sands because it connects to the Port of Lewiston and avoids overpasses. The shipments have to move at night and make regular stops because they block traffic.

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