Dual megaload rolls through Moscow

  • Convoy leaves Port of Lewiston about 8 p.m. Thursday

September 16, 2011 | By ELAINE WILLIAMS of the Tribune The Lewiston Tribune  

As many as 100 demonstrators lined a two-block section of downtown Moscow on Washington Street Thursday night to protest or support a convoy of two Imperial Oil shipments headed for Canada.

The demonstrators, the vast majority of whom opposed the loads, were warned early on by Moscow police they would be arrested if they tried to impede the loads.

The two megaloads passed through Moscow at about 10:30 p.m. without incident – other than garnering a few shouts from both protesters and supporters.

The two shipments left the Port of Lewiston just after 8 p.m. Thursday in a convoy headed for U.S. Highway 95 that took at least 30 minutes to depart.

One appeared to be a platform, while another looked like a large prefabricated building.

This is the first time the Idaho Transportation Department has allowed more than one Imperial Oil shipment taking up two lanes of traffic to leave on the same night before 10 p.m.

Taking two big hauls at once will help the Idaho State Police make efficient use of its limited resources, said Lt. Allen Oswald. ISP was using the same number of officers for the larger convoy as it had for one, Oswald said. “The bottom line is we want these loads out of here.”

Imperial Oil is paying for the officers who are working overtime to accompany the shipments. ITD previously indicated it was considering the new approach, but didn’t announce Thursday’s move until late in the afternoon.

Asked how the earlier time and lengthier collection of vehicles made the loads more convenient for the traveling public, Adam Rush, an ITD spokesman, wrote the following in an email: “Motorists will not face any more delays when encountering a shipment leaving at 8 p.m. instead of 10 p.m. They will be directed around the two transports or those will pull off of U.S. 95 similar to what has been done with a single shipment.”

Asked if it was a response to protests that have resulted in arrests as a previous load went through Moscow, Rush wrote: “The change is being done to allow the transports to more quickly reach their final destination in Canada and reduce the number of separate, individual shipments that would need to use U.S. 95.”

Imperial Oil has about 60 more pieces of a processing plant it wants to take to the Kearl Oil Sands in Alberta, Canada, using U.S. 95 and Interstate 90 before entering Montana. A total of 33 Korean-made components arrived at the Port of Lewiston in the fall of 2010 and were converted to a larger number of shorter loads when Imperial Oil was unable to get permission to use a route that avoided the interstate system on U.S. Highway 12.

Helen Yost, a member of Wild Idaho Rising Tide, questioned if ITD was acting in the best interests of the public. “We see this an attempt to squash opposition because they’re not forthcoming with information.”

Reporter David Johnson contributed to this report.

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

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