Megaloads still at Vancouver port

Barge traffic has resumed on Columbia, Snake rivers, but oversized modules not yet among them

By Elaine Williams of the Tribune
March 31, 2011

Modules bound for a Canadian Imperial Oil processing plant haven’t been among the shipments on the Columbia and Snake rivers as barging resumed between Lewiston and Portland, Ore., in recent days.

Water transportation reopened Saturday after being closed 31/2 months for rehabilitation of three of the eight locks between Lewiston and Portland.

The outage prevented Imperial Oil from moving modules to Lewiston from the Port of Vancouver. A spokesman for the oil company in Calgary couldn’t predict when such activity might resume.

“At this point, given the uncertainty with permitting, all I can tell you is we’re evaluating our plans for future transportation of the modules,” said Pius Rolheiser, a spokesman for the Canadian company mostly owned by ExxonMobil.

The development was the latest indication the shipment of megaloads isn’t unfolding how the oil company hoped.

Rolheiser didn’t provide a number of how many modules are waiting at the Port of Vancouver, where his company has been transporting them across the Pacific Ocean from South Korea.

The Port of Lewiston has room for more modules, but it hasn’t been informed of when it might need to accept them, said David Doeringsfeld, manager of the port.

The timing of additional modules arriving in Lewiston is going to depend on how things go with an Imperial Oil test module now at the Port of Lewiston, said Gaylord Newbry, an owner of TGM Investments, a company assisting with unloading the modules.

The test module is scheduled to leave the port Monday following delays. Imperial Oil blamed the first delay on an inability to get equipment. The most recent postponement is to get more training for flaggers and pilot-car drivers.

The test module has the dimensions of the largest modules Imperial Oil wants to move on U.S. Highway 12. The company hopes its transport will demonstrate the viability of U.S. 12 and Montana roads for oversized cargo.

Imperial Oil has approval to move it from the Port of Lewiston on U.S. 12 to the Montana border and has applied for, but not received, permits for it be hauled into Montana, Rolheiser said.

Imperial Oil doesn’t have permission from either state for the movement of any of its other modules. A total of 33 modules, not counting the test shipment, reached the Port of Lewiston prior to the lock closure. They are being converted into 60 loads short enough to travel under interstate overpasses.

Imperial Oil has a request in to the Idaho Transportation Department for them to take U.S. Highway 95 north to Interstate 90 and then east to the Montana border.

Imperial Oil wants more than 114 modules to run from Lewiston to the Montana border on U.S. 12, taking up two lanes of traffic and pulling over at least every 15 minutes to allow traffic to pass.

ITD has scheduled a contested case hearing on April 25 on that matter before a hearing officer, who will provide an opinion ITD will use in reaching its final decision.

That process was forced by opponents of the megaloads who worry about the potential effect of the extra heavy trucks on public safety, roads and aesthetics of the recreational corridor.

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