Test megaload resuming journey

Oversized Imperial Oil load stranded at Kamiah two weeks

By Elaine Williams of the Tribune
April 27, 2011
Tree limbs were removed and power lines were raised in advance of an Imperial Oil test module resuming its journey on U.S. Highway 12 through Idaho.

The 3-story-tall, 24-foot-wide shipment was scheduled to leave a pullout five miles west of Kamiah at 10 p.m. last night and reach Milepost 139, 35 miles west of the Montana border, by 5:30 a.m. this morning. If that section of the journey went as planned, it is expected to start the final leg of its trip at 10 p.m. today.

It departed Lewiston April 11 on its way to 71/2 miles inside Montana in a trip required by the Idaho Transportation Department to see if a rig its size can navigate U.S. 12. The test module has the dimensions of the largest of more than 100 shipments Imperial Oil wants to send on U.S. 12. The other loads would carry Korean-made modules for a processing plant in the Kearl Oil Sands in Alberta, Canada.

The trip was suspended by ITD after the load knocked down a tree limb in North Lewiston and caused a power outage for about 1,300 residents in the Pierce and Weippe areas.

ITD required a plan to prevent a repeat of the incidents. Three power lines already high enough to accommodate the shipment were raised permanently in the Kamiah area to meet the National Electric Safety code, said Debbie Simock, a spokeswoman for Avista in Spokane.

Doing so caused one brief outage and another of about two hours, Simock said, but Avista employees notified those affected.

A total of 16 power lines were raised, according to ITD.

Trees were trimmed from just outside Kamiah to the Montana border, said Pius Rolheiser, a spokesman for Imperial Oil. “Our intent was that the movement of the test module wouldn’t brush or break any branches.”

In some instances the limbs are being removed from trees in places along the Wild and Scenic River corridor where residents can’t paint their houses without getting permission from the U.S. Forest Service, Sheryl Nims, an owner of Ida-Stone Memorials who resides in the Kamiah area.

“They’re trimming so severely we’re concerned they’ll be a big wind storm and blow them over because they are lopsided now,” said Nims, who has been a citizen observer of the megaloads.

Imperial Oil obtained permission from ITD to do the work on the trees, Rolheiser said. It falls within ITD’s easement for U.S. 12 which includes “the right to manage vegetation within the construction limits of the highway,” according to a prepared statement from the U.S. Forest Service.

The federal agency reviewed the trimming shortly after it started and offered suggestions that were followed about reducing the impact to the “visual character of the corridor,” according to the statement.

Information previously provided by Imperial Oil’s paid hauler indicated it would provide clearance of 3 feet on either side of the highway’s fog line and 32 feet high.

“Some trees have incomplete pruning, with limbs removed only from one side making them look awkward and unbalanced. The pruning of these trees will be completed within a few weeks,” according to the statement from the Forest Service.

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