Idaho Transportation Department Documents Megaload Bills

One of many Imperial Oil megaloads sits at the Port of Lewiston last summer (The Lewiston Tribune/Barry Kough photo).

Idaho has spent nearly $200,000, but more than half will be reimbursed

The Idaho Transportation Department has disclosed $190,012 in expenses related to megaloads during 2011, a year where 79 of the shipments traveled on U.S. highways 12 and 95.

More than half the total expenditures, or $107,490, was for snow and ice removal and is being reimbursed by the companies that hired the megaload trucking firms, according to an email from ITD spokesman Adam Rush.

The companies hauling the oversized loads also paid $27,158 for permits.

The first of four ConocoPhillips megaloads dwarfs a large highway sign, as it snakes its way east on the frontage road along U.S. Highway 12 in North Lewiston last year (The Lewiston Tribune/Kyle Mills photo).

But it’s not clear how many resources the agency has used monitoring the megaloads, processing paperwork, examining roads, and inspecting bridges.

ITD indicated it was impossible to segregate expenses in at least two key areas.

The only employee hours in ITD’s tally are for overtime. ITD declined to provide an estimate of regular hours.

“The schedules of hourly employees were adjusted to avoid overtime charges, so there isn’t a dollar figure associated with them,” Rush wrote.

The total also doesn’t account for legal assistance from the Idaho Attorney General’s office, which represented the agency in challenges of ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil megaloads taking U.S. Highway 12.

“The attorney general’s staff, assigned to the department, do not normally track their time by project,” Rush wrote. “Theirs are not extraordinary expenses, but fall within the standard cost of doing business for the department and are covered by the set fees charged to us by the attorney general.”

The second-largest expense in the $190,012 is $81,563 for a contested case hearing that took more than two weeks. Among those costs were $42,500 for the hearing officer and $19,212 for a private legal firm.

The proceeding resulted in a recommendation in favor of Imperial Oil sending more than 200 megaloads on U.S. 12 from the Port of Lewiston to the Kearl Oil Sands in Alberta, Canada. The result of the hearing, however, so far appears to be moot.

The only megaload Imperial Oil has sent on U.S. 12 was a test module that remains parked near the Montana border. The permitting process for the load remains tied up in court in Montana. Other routes are being used for the remainder of the 200 shipments.

Thirty-three shipments barged to the Port of Lewiston were turned into shorter loads and are now taking U.S. 95 to Interstate 90 into Montana. Others are getting to Canada through Vancouver or the Tri-Cities, Washington.

The only other megaload expense documented by ITD was close to $959 in overtime accrued by ITD employees monitoring such loads belonging to Weyerhaeuser and Selway Corporation.

Weyerhaeuser transported Chinese-made components for a pulp mill refurbishment in Canada on U.S. 12. Selway Corporation, based in Montana, shipped a large pipe that is part of a hydroelectric generation plant upgrade at Snoqualmie Falls, Washington.

Neither company was charged to ensure independence of the process, Rush wrote. “This approach mirrors the inspections ITD staff performs of construction projects being built by contractors.”

(By Elaine Williams, The Lewiston Tribune)

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