Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

by jhwygirl

Last month Director had told the Legislature’s Revenue and Transportation Interim Committee that their review of Exxon/Imperial Oil’s environmental analysis (yep, the applicant submitted the ea) would be completed by August 15th….while later he backtracked and said that he didn’t expect to have it by the end of August.

Well, here we are, middle-of-September, and the bad news continues to pile on. Forest Supervisors of both the Lolo and the Clearwater National Forests oppose the plans to move the rigs up and over Lolo Pass…and Oregon’s U.S. Representative Pete Fazio is >calling for an investigation into Exxon/Imperial Oil’s plans to ship giant equipment through Idaho and western Montana to an energy project in Canada.

Apparently the Helena National Forest is OK with the plans to move the Korean-built bohemaths up and over Roger’s Pass – yep, no potential there for major disruption…

Not only does the bad news continue to pile on, but Lynch had promised the EA “by early September.”

One does have to ponder the Lolo National Forest Supervisor’s current position – given that they had to rescind their decision to bury powerlines (the request the result of Exxon/Imperial Oil’s transport plans) given that they failed to consult with the tribes – Lolo Pass the site of the ancient native Nez Pierce tribe’s Nimi’ipuu trail.

Wonder because while they are taking comment on the proposal to bury the powerlines through September 24th and the scoping period is exactly (and only) 30 days. Rather odd considering both the controversy surrounding the project and the fact that the scoping is the result of them having overlooked even scoping the thing in the first place, don’t you think?

You can read the notice here and check the map out on the specifics here.

Let’s note, too, that the scoping notice does not mention the application is the result of Exxon/Imperial Oil’s need to have the lines buried so they can move their oil modules. It does, in fact, state the purpose of the initiation of the request by Missoula Electrical Cooperative is to “improve long-term service to local residences and businesses.”


Still, too, one has to ponder if MEC should really be the applicant? Isn’t Exxon/Imperial Oil paying for this burial? Or is it the customers of MEC? It does lay open the question, doesn’t it? Given that the stated purpose on the scoping notice is to improve long-term service to its customers?

Shame on the Lolo for misrepresenting that line burial project. Check out that map…there’s quite a bit of that line burial that is immediately adjact to Lolo Creek, endangered bull trout habitat.

Are lines being buried on the Clearwater National Forest? What permits are needed from both of these forests? Why doesn’t the fact that these transport plans affect at least 3 National Forests this thing isn’t being analyzed under a full NEPA environmental impact statement?

Why doesn’t the fact that this entire transport plan crosses multiple state jurisdictions and multiple countries warrant a full NEPA EIS by the Feds? Is our security that lax? Is the concern that little?

Hopefully the hypocrisy of the Lolo’s public notice for the burial of these powerlines won’t go un-noticed.

The public and our County Commissioners and City Council should provide comment asking the Lolo National Forest to ensure that it re-notice the application to note the full purpose of the project…and analyze the full effect of the connected actions of this proposal – the effects both here and in Canada on the Athabasca tribal peoples.

by jhwygirl

I shoulda’ checked my email first, before writing the post below.

This photo comes courtesy Missoula resident and transportation advocate John Wolverton:

by jhwygirl

The sheer disregard that this proposal has for what is one of the more scenic drives and accessible recreational and prime fishing corridors in western Montana blows my mind.

There are so many things wrong with this proposal as it is now – a weak environmental analysis, prepared by Exxon, without any scoping. You can count on hearing more about that as I attempt to delve into the nearly 200 page (plus 12 addendums) document….by May 14th!

That’s right – public comment, which opened April 8th – closes on May 14th on a proposal to establish a permanent “High and Wide Corridor” from Lewistown Idaho, over and across Lolo Pass and 300 miles of western Montana on to Canada and Exxon’s oil tar sands in Fort McMurray in Alberta.

You can access the full Kearl Module transportation Project here, from MDOT’s EIS and EA public notice page.

I think we got lucky last winter, but how many trucks and 18-wheelers end up in the drink down there on the Idaho side? Because that road is so narrow?

Are they going to have to blast some of those cliffs to widen the road? Along what is a pretty darn scenic corridor?

Two pieces of equipment are expected to move through Montana every day for a year. 24-feet wide, 30-feet high, 210-feet long, and weighing up to 334,568 pounds.

Do you recreate Lolo Pass? I do in the summer. Several times a week….and then with occasional weekends. Imagine the delays! They say 15 minutes? No frickin’ way – not with stuff as largw as what they’re proposing to move.

Of all choices, Lolo Pass was best? Well, guess what? We really don’t know – the environmental review done by Exxon included four alternatives: four Canandian highway routes and one US Interstate route. Those 4 alternatives? Dismissed in four paragraphs with no analysis of the so-called impassable barriers, while the Idaho/Montana route is extensive in the number of turnouts needing to be constructed, the number of small bridges needing crossed, and the extent of modifications needed to complete the route.

That was before Exxon tried to say that this project was “categorically excluded” from analysis.

In some circles, this is called a “pre-determined analysis of the preferred pre-chosen alternative.”

It’s bad enough when they don’t scope the thing to first see what types of alternatives come from the public…but when they don’t even bother to fully analyze the alternatives, well, folks, that’s just about bordering on violating some of our Montana Environmental Policy Act laws and rules.

ARM 18.2.251 requires a programmatic analysis “whenever the agency is contemplating a series of agency-initiated actions, programs, or policies which in part or in total may constitute a major state action significantly affecting the human environment,” and “whenever a series of actions under the jurisdiction of the agency warrant such an analysis as determined by the agency, or whenever prepared as a joint effort with a federal agency requiring a programmatic review.”

Did I mention that last July, MDOT Director Jim Lynch testified before the joint legislative Revenue and Transportation interim committee of the large impacts of this proposal? He said that the very nature of the project required an EIS..and yet, despite that testimony, MDOT chose to direct Exxon forward with an environmental review that didn’t even include scoping (a process in which initial outreach is made to the public for comments in an effort to determine alternatives and the scope and scale of analysis. Here is a link to Director Lynch’s presentation to the committee

You can watch the July committee hearing here. Lynch’s testimony starts about 18 minutes in. You can also review the minutes here.

What to do? Email MDOT public comment saying that the scope of this project requires a public scoping process to better assess alternatives; that all alternatives should be fully any thoroughly analyzed equally; that potential risk to important fisheries and other natural resources must be taken into consideration and weighed against other alternatives; that an assessment of risk to the public along what is a narrow secondary route used primarily for recreation should be considered; and that consideration of permanent impacts to scenic and historic corridors should be afforded the maximum protection necessary for future generations.

Just wait ’til I get to the economic impacts (or lack thereof) of having these things shipped nearly whole, after assembly in North Korea or China or wherever….

by Rebecca Schmitz

Yesterday, on my way home from picking up a large order of sour pie cherries at Bowman Orchards south of Bigfork, I passed by one of those sights that make me wish I would remember to bring my camera with me more often: a dozen members of the Hells Angels’ Connecticut chapter parked at one of the small cherry stands along the east shore of Flathead Lake, buying (and eating from) bags of luscious Rainiers, Lamberts and Bings.

Perhaps the Flathead Lake Cherry Growers should look into getting some endorsements from the club.

by Pete Talbot

Bonehead of the week

Goes to the dude who cut off the Hells Angels on I-90. Now the Angels were in the wrong but still, sometimes you have to let things go. Especially if you have your 17-year-old daughter in the car. What’s this guy going to do for an encore, stroll through the streets of Tehran with a “The Ayatollah Sucks” placard?

I’m not a big fan of the Hell’s Angels — racist, sexist, gay-bashing, and prone to violence and meth distribution — but I’d probably cut them some slack on the highway when they’re bearing down on me.

By the way, shouldn’t the Angels pick up the tab ($139,371) for all the extra patrols Missoula is paying for to keep the citizenry secure? Just a thought — although don’t ask me to present them with the bill.

Slower than molasses …

Back in my globe-trotting days, I flew into airports from Belize to Borneo, Caracas to Cotenou, Malaysia to Madagascar. The slowest baggage delivery system I’ve encountered? Missoula, Montana.

I mean, how long does it take to unload an eighty-passenger Horizon turbo-prop? (Thirty minutes, the last time I flew into Missoula.)

I smell the Tavern Owners Association

I have nothing against taverns. I’ve passed more than a few pleasurable hours at various watering holes around the state. The Montana Tavern Owners Association, however, is one of my least favorite lobbies.

I’ve seen it ram lousy bills through the Montana Legislature, with help from both political parties: from stifling cabaret licenses, to hobbling brewers, to being the mouthpiece for all those obnoxious casinos.

Now it has the Montana Department of Revenue doing it’s dirty work. Apparently, the department is going to crack down on tasting room patrons who can’t finish their beverages by 8 p.m. That’s right, 8 p.m.

On a less bitchy note

Look for the ‘Think Local, Buy Local’ stickers in various independent businesses around Missoula. The Sustainable Business Council is promoting this campaign with an official launch at the River City Roots Festival, Aug. 23-24 . Here are just a few of the reasons to buy local:

* You bolster our economic base since local businesses are more likely to use other local services and products.

* You keep more tax dollars in our community to support our schools, parks, police, and other services.

* You support businesses that provide a large share of jobs in our community and are more invested in Missoula’s future.

* You ensure a solid foundation for our nonprofit organizations because they receive a majority of their donations from locally-owned businesses.

* You protect the beauty and natural resources of our community. Our local stores help sustain vibrant, compact, and walkable shopping districts and conserve energy and resources by reducing the transportation costs of goods.


by Rebecca Schmitz

In my e-mail inbox this afternoon was a present from a friend of a friend of a friend: photos taken yesterday of road crews clearing one of the sections of Highway 12 hit by avalanches last week. Check it out!


Here’s a close up of the debris swept down the mountainside. Anyone or anything buried in this snow would be skewered like a jumbo shrimp on a shish kabob.


Thanks, friend!

by Rebecca Schmitz

How’s everyone surviving the winter? It’s amazing, isn’t it? I haven’t been able to shake this chest cold and nagging cough for over a month now, and I think the Upper and Lower Clark Fork Basin snow pack levels are 110 million percent of normal. I know some of our readers are in remote areas of Missoula County. I’m sure you guys are dealing with more snow than us effete city dwellers. I absolutely adore it.* I don’t think I’ve seen this much snow in town since the infamous snowfall of Christmas Day 1996, when I woke up to find my Subaru buried somewhere beneath a six-foot high snowdrift. Travelers across the state today had to deal with some major inconveniences because of our winter weather: both I-90 from Superior to Lookout Pass and I-15 from Dell to Monida Pass were closed to traffic for a few hours. That just goes to show how Mother Nature ultimately has control over Montana’s economy; without an extensively developed transportation system on the ground and in the air, our contact with the outside world can be interrupted for periods of time, even in the 21st Century.

One of the news stories I’ve been keeping an eye on in the past week (Mitt who?) is the closure of Highway 12 from Lolo Pass west to Lowell, Idaho due to several avalanches. This stretch of road is one of my favorites in America. From cheeseburgers at the Lochsa Lodge to blackberry pie at the Middle Fork Cafe, I like to drive down Highway 12 several times a year. The scenery is breathtaking, and there are a lot of things I love: watching the rafters and kayakers brave the Lochsa River’s Class IV whitewater rapids around Memorial Day weekend, visiting the Lochsa Historical Ranger Station during my annual camping trip that includes a hike or two into Jerry Johnson Hot Springs and a drive to Selway Falls, and, at the end of the summer, picking blackberries and wild plums between Syringa and Kooskia. One of the best beaches in this entire region is Three Devils on the Middle Fork of the Clearwater River. After a long day picking blackberries in the hot sun, it’s the perfect place to wash the thorns and purple berry juice out of my pores.** The swimming hole is deep and wide, the current is gentle, and the white sand is soft underfoot.

Anyway, for all of you tired of winter, I wanted to post a photograph I took last Labor Day weekend of a special place along Highway 12: Jerry Johnson Hot Springs. Many of us from Missoula go there year round. Right now, however, with a few feet of snow on the ground and Highway 12 closed to traffic, it’s nice to remember it during the final lazy days of summer.


I don’t know about you guys, but despite what I said above, and as much as I enjoy cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, I think I’m ready for spring.

*When you grow up in the San Francisco Bay Area, you grow up with only two seasons: summer, and bone-chilling rain and fog. After nearly twenty years here, I’m a big fan of four seasons.

**Let’s not all go on the same weekend, okay? You can usually find me swimming in the river there the last week of August and the first week of September. You’re welcome at any other time.

by Pete Talbot

Can Missoula support a progressive radio station? It couldn’t the last time around. Radio station KKNS lasted a few months before its owner, Simmons Media, pulled the plug.

But according to writer Robert Struckman over at New West, a station with the call letters KMPT is going to give it another shot. The station will go on the air Thursday, Jan. 3, the story says, and can be found at 930 on the AM dial.

(I’m wondering what’s up with Missoula Community Radio. This independent, non-profit station was in the process of raising funds and filing for a license with the FCC. Can anyone out there give 4&20 readers an update?)

Anyway, Missoula is a small market with a lot of radio saturation already, so I wish both stations “good luck” and I’ll be listening.

The general election this year is on Tuesday, Nov. 4. I’m guessing that the Montana Democratic Party will be urging Montana males to go to the polls on Nov. 5.

According to a poll taken by Lee newspapers, men favored Republicans over Democrats by 44 percent to 28 percent while women supported Democrats by 40 percent to 30 percent for Republicans. The rest of the folks polled were undecided.

Also, a little more than half (56 percent) of men thought they’d see adverse impacts from global warming. That number was 68 percent with women. And 86 percent of Democrats versus 42 percent of Republicans think global warming will lead to adverse impacts.

There must have been an awful lot of Republican men in a coma last summer as forest fires ravaged our state.

NASA released partial results of an air safety survey of pilots who complained about fatigue, problems with air traffic controllers, airport security and the layouts of runways and taxiways.

NASA would have released more data, such as trends, but didn’t want to “harm the airlines’ bottom lines.”

I didn’t realize that NASA was on the payroll of United, Northwest, Delta, American … Why else would it keep the details of the report secret? I’d feel safer knowing everything that’s in the survey. One quote was released that I found a little unnerving:

“Pilots asleep on the flight deck is a problem,” one pilot said.

For those that don’t make it down to the comments section at blog sites, here’s an update from Missoula Community Radio:

“We submitted our application(s) on time for two different signals based in the Bitterroot (with a plan in place to buy and operate a translator in Missoula to boost our signal); only planning to keep one. We learned a month later that we are competing with two other groups – three groups for two signals.

We are in the process of negotiating with one of the organizations to jointly to establish a signal that would be available from Hamilton to Missoula. The other organization is not compatible enough with our (or we with their) mission to consider working together, so they would drop one of their applications and in turn win the other signal.

This is all good news, as we could have our build permit in the next few months, as opposed to the next few years (The FCC is saying a three year wait on all applications that are not able to settle on their own). Hopefully we should have some significant news to share in the near future.

BTW, we have almost reached our initial fund raising goal, but need to raise more! Please donate if you can at our website and contact us if you have any questions or would like to get involved!!!

If you would like to learn more about Missoula Community Radio please visit http://www.MCRFM.org and the issues we are interested in at

by Pete Talbot

Unless it’s, say, a weekend in Spokane, travel tends to broaden ones horizons. I find that people are basically the same everywhere. We’re mostly good and we mostly want the same things out of life. Travel also reinforces my progressive instincts. We’re lucky here in Missoula, Montana. We have more of just about everything. Here are some thoughts on Missoula and Madagascar.


I had to chuckle when I came home and urban chickens were still an issue. ABOVE are LIVE chickens tethered to the top of local transportation. Eighty percent of the Malagasy population practices subsistence farming. Most families have chickens, goats, zebus (a sort of ox-cow breed) and other assorted livestock roaming the village. Not that I advocate this for Missoula but really, a few chickens in the yard?


It was the people that so impressed me. There are 15 million people living on the fourth largest island in the world (it’s about the size of Texas). Madagascar is also one of the world’s poorest nations. The kids ABOVE are typical of the hordes of children you see in the villages and cities of Madagascar. You don’t see a lot of old people. Continue Reading »

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