April 28, 2011 in Idaho

Report: Route prized by hauler

Permits would create ‘high-load corridor’
By The Spokesman-Review
Associated Press photo

Activity around an Imperial Oil test module increases earlier this month as crews prepare to depart from the Port of Lewiston for the oil sands in Alberta, Canada.
(Full-size photo)

BOISE – A 2009 report by the company that proposed to haul more than 200 giant loads of oil equipment on scenic U.S. Highway 12 in north-central Idaho said the project would be a “game changer for Alberta’s oil sands developers,” opening up a “high-load corridor” from Lewiston to Alberta, Canada.

The report, which was shown as an exhibit during a hearing Wednesday on the Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil megaloads plan, was submitted to the Idaho Transportation Department by Mammoet Transportation, the hauler for Imperial/Exxon.

Jeff Stratten, ITD spokesman, said he couldn’t comment on the report during the ongoing hearing.

“What I can tell you is we’ve had two companies apply for permits, Conoco and Exxon. To date, three permits have been issued,” Stratten said.

ConocoPhillips applied for permits to haul four megaloads of replacement equipment from the Port of Lewiston, where the loads arrived by barge, to its Billings refinery. It got approval, and two have already gone across the twisting route.

Imperial/Exxon wants permits to haul more than 200 giant loads of Korean-made equipment from Lewiston across Montana and into Canada for the Alberta oil sands project. So far, it’s been issued one permit, for a “test module” that’s now on the road.

Laird Lucas of Advocates for the West, attorney for the megaloads opponents, who include residents and business owners along the Idaho portion of the route, said he obtained the 2009 report through a public records request to the ITD. It was in the files of District 2 maintenance engineer Doral Hoff, who testified Wednesday.

Hoff said he recalled reading the report but didn’t remember it in detail.

“We’re trying to get to the truth here,” Lucas said after the hearing. “The oil industry and the transport industry want Highway 12 as a high-and-wide industrial corridor. They’ve been working on it for three years.”

Lucas said the loads could have taken other routes, but they’re longer. “That’s what it’s all about, is a shorter route.”

Hoff and ITD motor vehicle administrator Alan Frew testified Wednesday that the Idaho agency couldn’t consider other possible routes that go outside the state. They also both said the giant loads, which take up both lanes of the two-lane highway, can’t practically be reduced in size – although Imperial/Exxon is currently cutting 33 of them in half so they can travel from Lewiston up Highway 95 through Moscow and Coeur d’Alene.

“It is impractical to reduce them further than what they already had been produced at,” Frew said.

The hearing is expected to continue into next week.

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