Megaload gets under way in E. Oregon

PORTLAND, Ore. — A megaload of oil refinery equipment bound for the tar sands oil region of western Canada has completed a leg of more than 40 miles in its planned six-day trip through Eastern Oregon.

The rig parked south of Pendleton on Tuesday after pulling out of the Port of Umatilla on Monday night earlier than protesters expected.

Holly Zander, a spokeswoman for the moving company, Omega Morgan of Hillsboro, Ore., said the plan was for the trip to resume Tuesday night, but the final decision would be up to the crew on the road. Snow caused traffic problems in Eastern Oregon earlier in the day.

The state has limited the load to night hours, beginning at 8 p.m., to reduce traffic tie-ups. The load is 22 feet wide and 380 feet long, so it will block traffic on the two-lane highways it plans to use through much of Eastern Oregon. It’s required to pull over every so often to let vehicles get by.

The rig can go about 35 mph, Zander said, and with stops, is expected to average at 75 miles a day.

The trip has drawn protests from environmentalists and Umatilla tribal members.

On Sunday night, two protesters locked themselves to the rig. By the time officers detached them, it was too late for the rig to make it to its first stop site.

Protester David Osborn said the rig left the port Monday night at about 7:15 p.m., 45 minutes before permitted.

Tom Strandberg, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Transportation, said the load didn’t get onto a state highway until 8 p.m., so it complied with state rules.

A woman who sat down in front of the load was removed and detained, Osborn said. The Umatilla County sheriff’s office didn’t immediately return calls for information about an arrest.

Osborn said protesters haven’t given up.

“We are planning to do what we can to delay or stop the megaloads from reaching the tar sands,” he said.

Environmentalists object to the shipment on the grounds it will add to global warming. Umatilla tribal members say they weren’t adequately consulted by the government about a trip through Eastern Oregon territory where they have a treaty interest and concerns about potential damage.

Including transport vehicles, the shipment weighs about 900,000 pounds — 450 tons. The equipment itself is a little more than a third of the weight, about 330,000 pounds.

The load of water purification equipment fabricated in Portland was sent by barge on the Columbia River to the Port of Umatilla. It is scheduled to go through Idaho and Montana before it gets to Canada.

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