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Federal Judge Halts ‘Megaloads’ on Idaho Highway

Jessica Robinson

A federal judge has halted so-called “megaload” traffic through a wild and scenic corridor in Idaho. The ruling issued Friday orders the Forest Service to close a section of highway to an Oregon company trying to move oil equipment to Canada. 

The case deals with a route once traveled by Lewis and Clark, where the Nez Perce have ancestral land and still exercise treaty rights. Earlier this summer, the Forest Service said it couldn’t allow shipper Omega Morgan of Hillsboro, Ore., to move a two-story, slow-moving “megaload” on Highway 12. But when company started rolling anyway, forest officials didn't stop it.

Now, Judge B. Lynn Winmill is ordering the feds to stop the extra-large traffic. The federal judge in Boise sided with the Nez Perce Tribe and the environmental group, Idaho Rivers United. His order will remain in place until the Forest Service completes a study on the impact of the loads, in consultation with the tribe.

The decision could be a $5 million hit for the subsidiary of General Electric that owns the equipment, according to court filings. But Judge Winmill said the manufacturer knowingly put itself in the position of incurring losses when it decided not to wait for Forest Service approval.

The next load was scheduled to move Sept. 18.

Inland Northwest Correspondent Jessica Robinson reports from the Northwest News Network's bureau in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. From the politics of wolves to mining regulation to small town gay rights movements, Jessica covers the economic, demographic and environmental trends that are shaping places east of the Cascades.