Eye On Boise

Megaload knocks out power to two Idaho towns, blocks highway for an hour

In this April 11, 2011 photo, activity around the Imperial Oil test module increases as crews prepare to depart from the Port of Lewiston in Lewiston, Idaho. The module, which is 250 feet long, 30 feet tall, 24 feet wide and weighs almost 500,000 pounds, will be the first of many the oil company hopes will travel the route on its way to the Kearl Oil Sands project in Alberta, Canada.  (AP Photo/Lewiston Tribune / Kyle Mills)
In this April 11, 2011 photo, activity around the Imperial Oil test module increases as crews prepare to depart from the Port of Lewiston in Lewiston, Idaho. The module, which is 250 feet long, 30 feet tall, 24 feet wide and weighs almost 500,000 pounds, will be the first of many the oil company hopes will travel the route on its way to the Kearl Oil Sands project in Alberta, Canada. (AP Photo/Lewiston Tribune / Kyle Mills)

A "test module" for the planned transport of hundreds of megaloads of Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil oil equipment across U.S. Highway 12 in north-central Idaho knocked out power for five hours last night to the towns of Pierce and Wieppe, and blocked traffic on the highway for an hour. Click below for a full report from the Lewiston Tribune and the Associated Press.

Oversized oil load blamed for outage in ID towns

LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) — One of the heaviest truckloads to ever travel across U.S. Highway 12 in northern Idaho was blamed for knocking out power to hundreds of residents and delaying traffic longer than allowed by state transportation officials.

Idaho officials say the rig carrying Imperial Oil's oversized shipment of refinery equipment clipped and snapped a guy wire for a high-voltage power line, setting off a chain reaction that shorted a power line and cut the electricity Monday night to 1,300 customers in the towns of Pierce and Wieppe.

The oversized load was also blamed for snapping a tree branch and at one point for delaying traffic for an hour, which is three times longer than was allowed under the state's permit.

"No one was hurt," said Pius Rolheiser, a spokesman for Imperial Oil, told the Lewiston Tribune Tuesday.

The oil company was conducting a test trip for the equipment, which departed Lewiston on the first leg of a weeks-long journey across Idaho, through Montana, to the oil sands in southern Alberta, Canada.

The Idaho Transportation Department ordered the load to stay put at a turnout 12 miles west of Kooskia until the trucking contractor can file a report.

The rig weighs 490,000 pounds, stands three stories tall and 24 feet wide and stretches roughly 250 feet long from the pull truck to the push truck. It is the biggest load ever to traverse one of the state's most scenic stretches of highway.

"We're going to do everything we can to accomplish this move safely and flawlessly," Rolheiser said moments before the 245-ton load left Lewiston.

Imperial Oil, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil Corp., wants to use the scenic roadway to haul dozens of similar loads across Idaho, into Montana and north to the Kearl Oil Sands.

Officials in Idaho and Montana issued permits for the test run before deciding how to handle the dozens of other proposed shipments.

Conservation groups and residents who live along the route have sued in federal court to block the shipments. That includes the Idaho Rivers United's lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service.

The group accuses the forest service of shirking its duties to protect the corridor from activities that could threaten the environment or its status as a federal Wild and Scenic River designation.

Kevin Lewis, Idaho River United conservation director, said the group has no plans to actively monitor the Imperial load.

Lewis said Highway 12, which runs along the Clearwater and Lochsa rivers, is part of a corridor known for its wildlife, scenery and recreation that will suffer from the presence of the massive trucks.

"That's not an appropriate place for those kinds of loads," Lewis said.

___

Information from: Lewiston Tribune, http://www.lmtribune.com




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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Russell covers Idaho news from the state capitol in Boise and writes the Eye on Boise blog.

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