The Lewiston Tribune reports today that the U.S. Forest Service is revising one of its interim criteria on megaloads at the request of the Idaho Transportation Department, but the two agencies remain at odds over the prospect of giant truck shipments across U.S. Highway 12 through designated Wild and Scenic River corridors and the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest, despite a federal court ruling saying the Forest Service has jurisdiction. The paper also reports that shipping company Omega Morgan wants to move as many as 10 megaloads from the Port of Wilma to oil fields in Alberta, Canada, over the route, and to press its point has already shipped two to the port, where they sit awaiting permits.
ITD Chief Deputy Scott Stokes asked the Forest Service last week to reconsider its position that loads that stop all traffic on the road require review. Forest Supervisor Rick Brazell, in a July 26 letter, answered back that he’d consider revising it to match the state’s standard for when a load requires a traffic plan, which would mean more reviews than the previous interim standard; click below for the full AP version of the story.
Brazell wrote in his letter that federally protected values that could be impacted in the corridor include recreation, fisheries, wildlife, water quality, scenery, historical and cultural sites, and tribal religious and cultural sites. “The State’s current position that permits will be issued regardless of the potential for such impacts seems to be in direct conflict with the recent Federal Court Ruling,” Brazell wrote. “The Federal Court Ruling made that clear by confirming the Forest Service’s role in reviewing permits in light of all laws governing National Forest Lands and the physical and intrinsic values associated with these lands. Idaho Code 49-1004 gives the State the discretion to issue permits but does not mandate permits to be issued.”
Yesterday, the Idaho Transportation Board held a special meeting in executive session reportedly to address personnel and legal matters, meeting behind closed doors. The board took no action and declined to say whether it addressed the megaloads issue.
Forest manager proposes changing megaload criteria
LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) — An Idaho forest manager has agreed to revise one of the interim criteria used to define "megaloads," but the change won't make it any easier to get approval to haul large loads of oil field equipment through the forest, into Montana and eventually to Canada.
Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest Supervisor Rick Brazell initially listed three criteria to determine if a load qualifies as a megaload, which would have to go through a formal review process that hasn't been created.
One was that a megaload would require traffic to be stopped. Others were loads that take more than 12 hours to pass through the forest and those that require the highway or adjacent vegetation to be modified to allow the load to pass.
Last week, Idaho Transportation Department Chief Deputy L. Scott Stokes asked Brazell to reconsider the first criterion, saying it is routine for traffic to be stopped for a variety of reasons.
The Lewiston Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/163wzyu) Brazell responded Friday by agreeing to replace the traffic-stoppage criterion with one based on a state rule that requires traffic control plans for loads more than 16 feet wide or 150 feet long traveling on a narrow section of U.S. Highway 12.
Brazell's letter notes the two loads Omega Morgan is seeking permits to haul through Idaho exceed that size and would take two days to travel through the forest.
"I would like to reiterate that the Forest Service does not support ITD permitting oversized loads meeting the interim criteria until the impacts of that use on the corridor values is better understood," Brazell wrote.
He said the Forest Service planned to meet with officials with the Nez Perce Tribe on Aug. 20 to start talking about the interim criteria, a Wild and Scenic River study and developing a process to deal with megaloads traveling through the forest and reservation land.
"These are challenging discussions which will take time and we have no timeline for completing a corridor study, but are seeking funding opportunities and evaluating internal capacity to complete such a study," he wrote.
Omega Morgan is seeking permission to move two water purification units that have been brought by barge to the Port of Wilma in Clarkston, Wash., and would like to move up to eight more large loads.
The loads are too tall to move on Interstate 90. Oil companies ended up cutting down loads of equipment headed for the tar sands of Alberta and using the interstate after environmental groups and residents opposed the loads being hauled along the route that follows the Wild and Scenic-designated Lochsa River.
Information from: Lewiston Tribune, http://www.lmtribune.com
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.