BOISE – The Idaho Transportation Department has issued a permit for a shipping company seeking to haul two massive loads along scenic U.S. Highway 12 in north-central Idaho.
The agency issued the permit Friday to Omega Morgan, which is proposing to ship a pair of 225-foot-long water purification units from the Port of Lewiston into Montana and ultimately the oil sands in Alberta, Canada.
This latest batch of megaload shipments has reignited concerns among environmentalists about large loads moving along the highway, sections of which pass through a federally designated Wild and Scenic River Corridor protecting the Lochsa and Clearwater rivers.
Transportation Department Deputy Chief Scott Stokes said Omega Morgan met the state’s criteria. But Stokes also noted that the permit comes with the understanding that it be reviewed by the U.S. Forest Service.
Earlier this year, a federal judge presiding over a lawsuit challenging another set of megaload shipments ruled the Forest Service has oversight on shipping through the corridor.
The units are at the Port of Wilma, located on the Washington side of the river downstream from Lewiston and Clarkston. Under the current proposal, the loads would move at night after 9 p.m. and avoid holding up traffic for more than 15 minutes.
Forest Service officials had been in talks with ITD over its permitting process.
Last month, Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests Supervisor Rick Brazell listed three criteria to determine if a load qualifies as a megaload, triggering a formal review process that has not yet been created.
But Brazell has also said the equipment violates interim guidelines for oversize shipments through the forest and would not be supported until the agency evaluates potential impacts to the area and forest visitors. The agency also wants to consult with the Nez Perce Tribe.