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ITD lets Highway 12 megaload roll tonight

Wed., Sept. 21, 2011, 4:41 p.m.

BOISE - The Idaho Transportation Department announced shortly before 5 p.m. today that it had issued a permit for Nickel Bros. transportation company to take its first megaload across U.S. Highway 12 in north-central Idaho tonight, bound for a Weyerhaeuser pulp mill in northern Alberta.

The giant load, which at 24 feet wide will block both lanes of the two-lane highway, is one of a dozen oversize loads of evaporator equipment the company hopes to send on the route as part of a plant upgrade; several of them are wide enough to block both lanes.

The Moscow-based conservation group Friends of the Clearwater filed a petition for a contested-case hearing on the plan, saying it could harm the sensitive river corridor, but ITD Director Brian Ness rejected the petition.

Wayne Roznowsky, Weyerhaeuser spokesman, said the company planned to start its shipments right away, and hasn’t had permit issues regarding the Montana portion of its route.

A 14-day appeal period on Ness’ decision is still running, but Natalie Havlina, attorney for Friends of the Clearwater, said, “ITD has made it clear that they don’t intend to wait for a motion for reconsider or go ahead and let that run before … they authorize the loads to go. That is disappointing but not surprising.”

She said she found it “very concerning” that ITD gave such little advance notice to the public that the giant load would be traveling. It is scheduled to travel between 10 p.m. and 5:30 a.m., and take five nights to traverse the scenic north-central Idaho route to the Montana state line at Lolo Pass.

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