Megaloads in position to take alternate route

  • Oil company is storing modules at Port of Pasco

Tuesday, August 9, 2011 | By ELAINE WILLIAMS of the Tribune The Lewiston Tribune

The number of Imperial Oil megaloads that will go through Lewiston appears to have gotten smaller. 

The oil company has stockpiled 49 of its Korean-made modules at the Port of Pasco, according to Jim Toomey, executive director of the Port of Pasco.

Imperial Oil announced Monday it hopes to use an all-four-lane route to get the pieces of a processing plant to the Kearl Oil Sands in Alberta, Canada. 

They would take U.S. Highway 395 and Interstate 90 in Washington, continue on I-90 through Idaho and into Montana before reaching the Canadian border on Interstate 15 in Montana, according to an Imperial Oil news release. 

“There wouldn’t be any road closures. We wouldn’t be blocking traffic in both directions for any of the route,” said Pius Rolheiser, a spokesman for Imperial Oil, who emphasized his employer still wants to use U.S. Highway 12 in Idaho and Montana.

The Port of Lewiston doesn’t have any new deliveries scheduled from Imperial Oil at this time, said port Manager David Doeringsfeld.

Originally, Imperial Oil was going to use the Port of Lewiston and U.S. 12 for 207 extra-large loads. The highway route was appealing because it avoided interstate overpasses that were too low for the cargo.

But it encountered unanticipated delays in getting permission after opponents raised questions about motorist safety and environmental impact.

In February, Imperial Oil announced that 60 shorter shipments would travel on Interstate 5 near the Port of Vancouver and that 33 others already at the Port of Lewiston would be shortened so they could take U.S. 95 and Interstate 90 through Idaho at a cost of about $500,000 per module.

The modules for the processing plant arriving in Pasco still need work before they’re ready for their road trip, said Rolheiser, who declined to disclose how many modules will go through the Tri-Cities. “We have made modifications with our manufacturer in Korea … such that they can be more readily disassembled.”

Rolheiser didn’t know the timing of his company’s shipments in Washington, since it would depend on permitting.

Imperial Oil is still pursuing permits for U.S. 12 and could use that route in combination with the others, Rolheiser said.

The Idaho Transportation Department has yet to reach a decision on Imperial Oil’s proposal. The Missoula County commissioners and three environmental groups are in court in Montana trying to block the megaloads on U.S. 12.

In Idaho, two ITD proceedings found no merit to the concerns of the opposition, Doeringsfeld said. “It’s unfortunate a few extremists will negatively impact jobs in north central Idaho.”

Reducing the size of the megaloads in Lewiston was done by crew of about 300, mostly out-of-town workers who spent money at businesses as diverse as hotels and machine repair shops.

The opponents have no plans to stop their efforts to block megaloads, said Borg Hendrickson in an email Monday. “(Imperial Oil) needs to admit the truth – Highway 12 is the wrong route for their megaloads and they need to find a better path if they want the Kearl project to be built in the foreseeable future.”

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

© 2011 The Lewiston Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.