Big loads: Otter pledged support in ’09

Letter supports Port of Lewiston’s efforts to develop business relationship with Imperial Oil

By Elaine Williams of the Tribune

Saturday, August 14, 2010
Idaho Gov. C.L. (Butch) Otter went on record in January 2009 backing the Port of Lewiston in its efforts to recruit Imperial Oil as a customer.

Imperial Oil, which is mostly owned by ExxonMobil, wants to haul processing equipment up the Columbia and Snake rivers after it’s shipped to the United States from Korea. More than 200 oversized loads would be placed on trucks after they arrive in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley and taken on U.S. Highway 12 to the Montana border on their way to the Kearl Oil Sands Project in Alberta, Canada.

“On behalf of the state of Idaho, I pledge our support and cooperation to enhance the development of this important new business opportunity,” Otter wrote in a letter to the Port of Lewiston commissioners. “… As the project progresses, we look forward to working with the Port of Lewiston, ExxonMobil and Imperial Oil to facilitate this exciting project.”

David Doeringsfeld, the port’s manager, said his employer received the letter after it sought support from the governor and economic development organizations.

“We believe your prospective clients will be impressed by Idaho’s ‘can do’ spirit, probusiness climate and the port’s capabilities,” Otter wrote. “Please continue to keep my office and the Idaho Department of Commerce apprised of any new developments and any specific needs the port may have to support this effort.”

Where Otter stands on the issue at this time is unclear. Jon Hanian, the governor’s press secretary, didn’t immediately return calls placed to him Friday.

The governor didn’t participate during a recent comment period of the Idaho Transportation Department on the project. ITD will decide if Imperial Oil has permission to travel on the state’s roads. ITD has promised it will require the trucks – which will consume two lanes of traffic – to travel only at night and allow traffic to pass every 15 minutes.

In spite of Otter’s letter, the Port of Lewiston has no signed agreement with Imperial Oil for the loads, which could start arriving as early as November, Doeringsfeld said.

Imperial Oil might use a private company at the Port of Wilma just west of Clarkston, Doeringsfeld said.

Asked how much Otter’s letter helped the port, Doeringsfeld said, “That’s difficult to characterize. Asking for support from the state shows the state of Idaho was willing to open up a dialogue with Imperial Oil about the feasibility of using the Columbia, Snake river system for the project.”

Williams may be contacted at [email protected] or (208) 848-2261.