Oil firm officials to hold meetings on its planned U.S. 12 caravan

By William L. Spence of the Tribune

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Representatives of Imperial Oil and the Idaho Transportation Department will conduct meetings to discuss plans for moving 200 oversized truckloads of equipment from Lewiston to Montana along U.S. Highway 12.

Two meetings were originally scheduled, in Lewiston and Kooskia. A third was recently added in Moscow at the request of Rep. Tom Trail.

Trail said a number of his Latah County constituents use the highway for hunting, recreation and travel. Many have questions about the project, he said, which involves equipment loads that range in length from 170 to 210 feet and weigh as much as 580,000 pounds – substantially more than a typical tractor-trailer load that’s 90 feet long and might weigh 80,000 pounds.

The Moscow and Lewiston meetings take place June 28. The first will be at Moscow City Hall, 206 E. Third St., from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; the second is at the Red Lion Hotel, 621 21st St., in Lewiston from 4 to 7 p.m.

The Kooskia meeting takes place June 29, from 4-7 p.m. at Kooskia City Hall, 26 S. Main.

Plans call for the equipment to be delivered by barge to the Port of Lewiston, then transported in three stages across Idaho, into Montana and then north to the Kearl oil sands project in Alberta. The loads would be moved only late at night; traffic delays would be limited to 15 minutes.

A summary of the proposal is available at www.kearltransport.com/Idaho.

In a press release, ITD said permits “will be issued only if we are convinced the equipment can be moved safely, without risk to the roads and bridges and with minimal disruption to traffic.” If approved, the first loads could leave as early as November. (Four other loads of oversized equipment for an unrelated refinery project in Billings, Mont., will be transported from the port east along U.S. Highway 12 this summer, in late June and late August.)

Among the concerns he’s heard, Trail said, is whether there’s any potential for environmental damage if an accident pushes a load into the Clearwater or Lochsa rivers, and how much effect 200 loads will have on the highway infrastructure. Some people wonder what Idaho is getting out of the project, he said, and others wonder “who’s coming next” – whether this route will become the main gateway for oversized equipment needed in the booming oil sands region.

“I think there will be a good turnout,” Trail said. “I’m grateful to the (transportation) department for setting this up.”

Comments and questions about the project will be taken during the meetings. ITD will also accept feedback via email at [email protected] and by mail at the Idaho Transportation Department, P.O. Box 7129, Boise, Idaho, 83707. The deadline to comment is July 14.

Spence may be contacted at [email protected] or (208) 848-2274.