BOISE - The Idaho Transportation Department met with a Korean firm in September that wants to move another 40 to 60 giant truckloads of oil equipment across scenic U.S. Highway 12, and local residents who are suing over four other shipments didn’t find out until their attorney filed a public records request.
ITD officials met with half a dozen representatives of Harvest Energy and its associates on Sept. 15 to discuss the additional oversized truckloads, proposed to start in June of 2011 and travel through Idaho and Montana on the way to the Alberta oil sands project in Canada. The loads would travel from the Port of Vancouver to the Port of Lewiston by barge.
Borg Hendrickson and Linwood Laughy, a couple who live along Highway 12, said in an email, “A single state agency is in the process of changing forever the character of Idaho’s Clearwater-Lochsa corridor.” The two decried “closed-door meetings” and a lack of input.
ITD spokesman Jeff Stratten said, “They (Harvest Energy) approached us, and so obviously we’ll sit down and tell them what the requirements (are).”
He noted that the department is awaiting the Idaho Supreme Court’s ruling on four mega-loads proposed for the the route by ConocoPhillips, which wants to move equipment wider than the two-lane road from the Port of Lewiston to its Billings refinery, and had hoped to start the shipping in August.
Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil plans to send 207 oversize shipments along the same route, on the way to its Kearl Oil Sands project in Canada, starting in November.
Residents and businesses along the route, which is officially designated as the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway and runs along the wild and scenic Clearwater and Lochsa rivers, sued over the ConocoPhillips proposal, and a district judge revoked the permits for the four loads. The company and ITD both appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court; a ruling is pending.
No permits have yet been issued for the larger ExxonMobil project, which would temporarily block the two-lane route at night five nights a week for a year as the loads pass through.
“Idahoans will pay the price in personal safety, a diminished tourism industry, accelerated replacement of damaged highway and bridges, and in being pushed out of our own land by foreign corporations,” Hendrickson and Laughy charged.
Adam Rush, another ITD spokesman, said Friday, “The transportation department and Harvest Energy discussed load dimensions, bridges on U.S. 12, clearances, traffic control plans and the weight of shipments. No proposals were submitted to ITD by Harvest Energy. June of 2011 was mentioned as a preliminary start date to move equipment.”
He added, “The department meets routinely with haulers who have questions about permits.”