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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow Megaload begins trip after delay in NE Oregon

Megaload begins trip after delay in NE Oregon

UMATILLA — A transport rig carrying a 450-ton piece of oil refinery equipment left a Northeast Oregon port on Monday night, a day after protesters halted its departure, a sheriff's dispatcher said.

A Umatilla County dispatcher who declined to give his full name confirmed the megaload had set out on its trip but said he couldn't discuss whether there were more protests or arrests.

A team of security and law enforcement worked Monday to ensure the 22-foot-wide, 380-foot-long load departed on schedule from the Port of Umatilla, the East Oregonian reported.

The newspaper reported the rig left shortly before 8 p.m. Monday, which furious protesters felt was in violation of an Oregon Transportation Department permit.

Associated Press calls to Oregon State Police, the Oregon Transportation Department, the Port of Umatilla and the moving company, Omega Morgan of Hillsboro, Ore., were not immediately returned late Monday night.

The East Oregonian reported that two protesters were arrested Sunday night after locking themselves to the truck. Because it blocks traffic, the giant load can move only at night, mainly on Highways 395 and 26 through sparsely populated parts of Eastern Oregon. By the time the protesters were removed it was too late for it to set out Sunday night.

The equipment is bound for a tar sands oil development in western Canada.

Environmentalists object to the shipment for its potential to worsen global warming, and tribal members say they're worried about the possibility of environmental damage in Eastern Oregon, where they assert a treaty interest and say they weren't adequately consulted.

The route across Eastern Oregon was chosen after previous megaloads faced stiff opposition through the Nez Perce Reservation and a federally designated scenic river corridor on U.S. Highway 12 in Idaho. A federal judge ordered the loads to stop using that highway in September.

This is the first of three planned megaload shipments.

The two people arrested Sunday were identified as Leonard George Higgins, 61, and Arnold George Schroder, 35. Undersheriff Jim Littlefield said they were arraigned Monday on misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges and released without bail with a stipulation they not go back to the port.

A departure last Tuesday also was protested. The company said the equipment didn't move before the Thanksgiving holiday because it took longer than expected to load and secure it.

The water purification equipment is destined for Alberta. From eastern Oregon it will travel through Idaho and Montana.

Environmentalists are fighting the shipment to draw attention to fears that pollution from developing the tar sand oil in western Canada will contribute to global warming.

A member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation said the load's route runs on lands ceded in the Treaty of 1855. A statement about the treaty on the tribal website said the tribes reserved rights to hunt, fish and gather food on 6.4 million acres in Oregon and Washington and "maintain a keen interest and involvement in the activities that occur in that area."

Tribal member Linda Sampson of Pendleton said the concern is with a lack of consultation and the potential for environmental damage.

"This can't be a major corridor through our land," she said. "Everything through here has a meaning and purpose for everybody."

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