Source: Lewiston Morning Tribune
Author: Elaine Williams
Megaloads lack Montana permits
It's unclear why oil company hasn't applied yet
LEWISTON - Montana is the place to find the answer about why no megaload has rolled through the Palouse, even though it had clearance from Idaho. The department of transportation in the Big Sky state hasn't issued a permit for the extra big rig, said Dave Ohler, who provides legal counsel to the Montana Department of Transportation. It would take up two lanes of traffic while carrying a piece of a processing plant for Imperial Oil to the Kearl Oil Sands in Alberta, Canada. Exactly why Imperial Oil hasn't applied for a permit from Ohler's state isn't clear. Imperial Oil has referred all questions to www.kearltransport.com while its spokesman is on vacation. The most recent update on that website was Sunday and indicated a smaller oversized load that originated at the Port of Lewiston would cross into Montana early Monday. It's now in Montana and had passed a weigh station west of St. Regis Monday, Ohler said. The permit the load had to take U.S. Highway 95 and Interstate 90 from Lewiston to the Montana border was valid for a five-day period that ended early this morning. "The second ExxonMobil shipment could depart from the Port of Lewiston later this week," wrote Adam Rush, a spokesman for the Idaho Transportation Department in an email Tuesday. "(Imperial Oil) has not given the department a specific date yet." The permission ITD granted was based on the shipment pulling over every 15 minutes to allow cars to pass and the trip occurring in three segments. If Imperial Oil is successful in getting paperwork reissued in Idaho and issued in Montana, road construction on Interstate 90 and Interstate 15 won't be an obstacle, Ohler said. His employer's website indicates traffic is limited to one lane in at least five spots between the Idaho and the Canadian borders on the route the megaload would take. Construction crews routinely make allowances for extra-big trucks carrying a variety of cargos, Ohler said. What's happening in Montana is also affecting the schedule of any megaloads that might use U.S. Highway 12 in Idaho. A judge on Tuesday sided with the Missoula County commissioners and three environmental groups in legal action that alleged in part MDT's analysis of Imperial Oil's plans was inadequate. Back in Idaho, Imperial Oil is still waiting for the go-ahead for megaloads on U.S. Highway 12. The road is the oil company's preferred choice because the loads can be taller since they don't have to go underneath overpasses. Opponents have challenged a recommendation out of an ITD proceeding that supported Imperial Oil's plans. The retired judge who presided in the proceeding hasn't yet made a decision on the opponents' petition to reconsider. The only Imperial Oil megaload that crossed Idaho did so in the spring. It was described as a test module with dimensions and weight similar to that of the company's largest proposed shipments. It's sitting in a parking lot at Lolo Hot Springs not far from the Idaho border. Imperial Oil wants to use U.S. Highway 12 to move more than 100 oversized loads, which are manufactured in Korea, shipped to the Port of Vancouver and barged to the Port of Lewiston. Originally the number that was going through Lewiston was more than 200, but Imperial Oil altered its course due to delays caused by the opposition. It shipped some from the Port of Vancouver. It also turned 33 shipments into 60 units short enough to go on the interstate, with modifications costing close to $500,000 per module.