By ELAINE WILLIAMS of the Tribune
The Port of Lewiston will not actively recruit megaloads that take up two lanes of traffic as it works to broaden its customer base.
“We don’t perceive there is a market for this kind of cargo,” said Port Manager David Doeringsfeld.
The port’s position on megaloads has not been clear because of vague wording in a recently approved marketing plan, and its choice to hire legal counsel in a megaload lawsuit where it is not a plaintiff or a defendant.
The case was brought by environmental groups and the Nez Perce Tribe over the decision to allow a megaload to use U.S. Highway 12 in the summer of 2013.
A judge has imposed an injunction against
extra-large loads traveling a 100-mile section of the road while the U.S. Forest Service evaluates the social and cultural influence of the extra-large shipments.
“We’re staying engaged with the process of the suit,” Doeringsfeld said.
One of the reasons for the port’s concern is that megaloads have been defined in the litigation as trucks that are more than 16 feet wide, Doeringsfeld said, making the restriction apply to some types of business the port wants to recruit.
As it stands now, a 16.5-foot-wide truck carrying a rock crusher is prohibited, Doeringsfeld said.
“That’s our only east/west travel route in north central Idaho and limiting the types of cargo you ship on a U.S. highway will have a negative economic impact to our area,” he said.
Even though the port won’t be trying to attract shipments that block two lanes of traffic, that doesn’t mean it won’t be handling that kind of cargo at all.
Doeringsfeld is required to provide information about port services to any legal business that’s willing to follow all transportation rules, regardless of if they want to move lentils, chemicals or megaloads.
The port believes handling items headed to the oil production area in North Dakota is a more promising venture, he said, such as ceramic beads used for fracking, drill pipes, compressors and pumps.
Some of those goods are made overseas and enter the United States through Gulf of Mexico ports, even though the Port of Lewiston is closer by hundreds of miles.
In some instances, certain equipment may need additional work before it’s shipped to customers, which Doeringsfeld said opens the possibility for more jobs in Nez Perce County. He expects production in North Dakota to go on for decades.
“We should be looking at how we can benefit from the explosion of development,” he said.
The Port of Lewiston has had face-to-face meetings with representatives of the Port of Portland, Ore., and the Port of Vancouver, Wash., about ways to partner in marketing the Columbia and Snake River system. The meetings happened when port officials were in the Portland area on other business.
The Port of Vancouver has offered to let the Port of Lewiston use an office it has opened in Williston, N.D., when Lewiston officials make a couple of visits to that region in the coming year.
There’s also possibilities of the ports sharing space in booths at trade shows. What trade shows the Port of Lewiston may participate in is still being decided.
Doeringsfeld said it could take years to gain new business from the stepped up marketing efforts. Building modules made in Rathdrum, Idaho, that went through the port in 2013 were booked eight months in advance, and that timeline is often even longer.
A company could order something and be on a six-month waiting list before the equipment is made. Manufacturing can take a year, he said, and getting the cargo to its destination takes even more time. Specially trained crews and equipment have to be reserved.
“The logistics can be complex, and we recognize this won’t be an overnight effort,” he said.
Williams may be contacted at [email protected] or (208) 848-2261.