Megaloads continue to shrink

  • With other ports getting some of the loads, Lewiston now has around 10 modules waiting for transport

Posted: Friday, November 4, 2011  | By ELAINE WILLIAMS of the Tribune The Lewiston Tribune

Imperial Oil may not need Lewiston as much for megaloads as it once thought.

The subsidiary of ExxonMobil is accumulating 100 of its modules at the Port of Pasco, said Jim Toomey, Port of Pasco executive director.

Another 60 are bypassing Lewiston by starting their road journey in Vancouver, Wash., where they’ve been barged from Korea.

An additional 33 arrived in Lewiston last year and were converted to 70 smaller hauls using U.S. Highway 95 and Interstate 90 in Idaho.

Where the remaining 10 or so of what had previously been 205 loads could be headed is not clear.

A spokesman for Imperial Oil Thursday declined to answer a question about how many more loads, if any, his company would ship to Lewiston.

“Decisions have yet to be made,” said Pius Rolheiser, a spokesman for Imperial Oil. “They will depend on permitting and other issues. It’s premature at this point to give specific numbers of loads or specific routes.”

All of the loads are carrying Korean-made components of a processing plant being constructed in the Kearl Oil Sands of Alberta, Canada.

The equipment is shipped across the ocean to the Port of Vancouver, where it’s transferred to trucks or barges that take it up the Columbia and Snake River system.

Since many of the shipments are now being modified into smaller pieces after they arrive in the U.S., the number of loads moving on the roadways will exceed 205, Rolheiser said.

But the volume of equipment manufactured for Imperial Oil in Korea for the Kearl Oil Sands hasn’t changed from the initial proposal, Rolheiser said.

Originally Imperial Oil was going to send all 205 through Lewiston on U.S. Highway 12 in a project supposed to start in November of last year and be finishing now.

Taking only highways instead of Interstate would have allowed Imperial Oil to ship taller loads since they wouldn’t have needed to go underneath Interstate overpasses.

Imperial Oil, however, altered its plans after delays in getting permission from Idaho and Montana. Environmentalists have argued the shipments, which take up two lanes of traffic, would create safety issues and detract from the scenic nature of the roads they would use.

Imperial Oil now has clearance from Idaho to use U.S. 12 for the largest of its megaloads that are about 30 feet tall. But the company won’t have a decision in Montana on those at least until January because of litigation.

Opponents don’t appear to be convinced Imperial Oil has abandoned its hopes of shipping on U.S. 12.

Friends of the Clearwater quietly filed a petition for judicial review in the 4th District Court of Idaho in Ada County on Oct. 5. The Idaho Transportation Department is listed as a respondent in the document.

“It’s a place holder in case they want to file a lawsuit at a later date,” said Adam Rush, a spokesman for ITD. “It’s not a lawsuit because we haven’t been served.”

Friends of the Clearwater has until April 5 to act on the petition, Rush said. A call to Advocates for the West, the group providing legal counsel to Friends of the Clearwater, wasn’t immediately returned.

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

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