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WEDNESDAY, AUG. 25, 2010, 3:01 A.M.

Permits for Highway 12 on hold…

Good morning, Netizens...

Yesterday morning, Mhibbs and I had breakfast at one of our undisclosed locations, an event that we have kept largely to ourselves, simply for the freedom it gives us in what and when we discuss matters of the world of our choosing. One of the many topics we discussed yesterday was the court ruling regarding wide, heavy loads of oil refinery equipment which were slated to travel down Highway 12 East of Lewiston to the Montana border.

While I was modestly-skeptical whether the requisite permits would be granted, Mhibbs felt confident, given all the precautions being taken by the Idaho Transportation and Conoco Phillips Petroleum to protect the ecologically-sensitive Clearwater and Lochsa River corridor, would be ratified without much discussion.

Second District Judge John Bradbury ordered the Idaho Transportation Department to review the request from ConocoPhillips again and to take action to ensure the safety and convenience of the public, thus putting the planned operation on hold until possibly October.

The ConocoPhillips shipments are just the first oversized loads planned for the corridor. Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil is proposing to haul more than 200 oversized loads of heavy oil machinery from the port in Lewiston along Highway 12 into Montana, then north to its Kearl Oil Sands project in Alberta, starting in November.

Highway 12 is a scenic, two-lane highway that is predominantly used by tourists and recreational travelers to follow the rivers, and even with that limited use, traffic is often slow and cumbersome at times.

The Exxon loads would weigh more than 300 tons, stretch up to 227 feet long, and reach up to 27 feet high. Half would be up to 29 feet in width — wide enough to take up both lanes of the highway. Trucks would move only at night and pull over in newly designed turnouts during the day; Imperial/ExxonMobil already has spent $440,000 on improving turnouts along the route..

According to the article in the Spokesman-Review written by Betsy Z. Russell, this might not be the absolute end of the process, but it certainly revises the oil company's plans. The loads proposed by the oil companies will be offset by the trailers’ bigger tires and extra axles, creating no more stress on the road than logging trucks or other commercial haulers.

Suffice it to say Judge Bradbury's ruling caught both Mhibbs and myself wondering where and when this entire process will be finally determined.


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Spokesman-Review readers blog about news and issues in Spokane written by Dave Laird.