Minnick seeks delay on U.S. 12 big load decision

Lawmaker calls for ‘widely advertised’ public hearing, analysis of testimony

By Elaine Williams of the Tribune

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

U.S. Rep. Walt Minnick is asking the Idaho governor’s office to delay a decision about allowing Imperial Oil to haul oversized shipments of mining equipment on U.S. Highway 12 until the issue can be researched more.

Minnick, a Democrat, wants at least one “widely advertised public hearing” and an opportunity for the Idaho congressional delegation to analyze any testimony provided in that setting.

Imperial Oil wants to haul more than 200 loads on Highway 12 from Lewiston to the Montana border that would consume two lanes of the road.

The equipment is being made in South Korea and barged to the Port of Lewiston on its way to the Kearl Oil Sands Project in Alberta, Canada. The shipments could start as early as November, but no permits have been issued.

The heaviest load would approach 580,000 pounds and the lengths would range from 170 to 210 feet. A typical tractor-trailer load weighs about 80,000 pounds and is about 90 feet long.

The Idaho Transportation Department has indicated Imperial Oil would have to follow a variety of rules such as allowing traffic to pass every 15 minutes.

Minnick raised seven questions in a letter to David Hensley, chief of staff and legal counsel for Gov. C.L. (Butch) Otter, a Republican, dated July 21.

Among them are: What are the estimates of damage to the highway infrastructure? Does the cost of maintaining the route outweigh the potential economic benefits to the region and the state?

What will the shipping mean for traffic along the Lochsa and middle fork of the Clearwater rivers? They parallel Highway 12 and have been designated as wild and scenic areas by Congress.

“Residents of a remote and wild part of the country rely on this highway for vital services as well as access to their businesses,” Minnick wrote. Attempts to reach Otter, or Otter’s spokesman Tuesday were unsuccessful.

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