Megaloads Head North on 95; Foes Claim Victory

As 45 protesters escort two oversized shipments through Moscow, Kooskia-area couple celebrate

Megaload opponents claimed a win Tuesday as the last two Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil oversized shipments left Lewiston and headed through Moscow on U.S. Highway 95.

About 45 protesters, and nearly as many law enforcement officers, ushered the megaloads through Moscow without incident Tuesday night. [Editor’s note: Moscow police issued two misdemeanors on Thursday for two protester incidents.]

Ordinary citizens of Idaho and Montana have successfully challenged an attempt to turn U.S. Highway 12 into a permanent high-and-wide-transport corridor, Borg Hendrickson wrote in an email Tuesday. “Is this outcome a victory for the Davids of the world, the ‘little’ people? Absolutely. Is the battle over? Probably not.”

Hendrickson and her husband, Linwood Laughy of the Kooskia area, spearheaded an effort to block megaloads on U.S. 12, which is adjacent to their home along the Middle Fork of the Clearwater River.

They weren’t on hand for the departure of the huge rigs Tuesday. “Borg and I will probably spend time this evening listening to the river, holding hands, and smiling,” Laughy wrote in an email Tuesday. “Sunday evening we’ll enjoy a small gathering with close friends who have been involved with us throughout the battle.”

Only 33 of what was supposed to have been more than 200 extra-large modules for the oil company ever arrived in Lewiston.

The components that did come didn’t take U.S. 12, the road Imperial Oil hoped the Korean-made components of its processing plant could use en route to the Kearl Oil Sands in Alberta, Canada. The route was Imperial Oil’s first choice because it avoided interstates, enabling the company to move taller cargo.

Instead, they had to be converted to about 70 smaller hauls, short enough to navigate interstate overpasses along Highway 95 and Interstate 90 for the Idaho portion of the journey. The extra work exceeded half-a-million dollars per module. Two cranes used to handle the cargo at the Port of Lewiston were dismantled last week.

Other pieces of the processing plant have gone through Vancouver, Washington, and the Port of Pasco where about 100 still remain.

While Imperial Oil had permission to move the modules on U.S. 12 in Idaho, they would have been stranded once they reached Montana where they are blocked by a legal case filed by three environmental groups and Missoula County.

Imperial Oil is still pursuing the case, which has yet to be resolved. It will start a second phase of the processing plant that has as much capacity as the first.

A number of decisions have yet to be made about that project, including what role Korean manufacturers will play. The more than 200 modules shipped from Korea for the first phase were among a total of 1,200. Most of the remainder were fabricated in Canada.

The one Imperial Oil megaload that traveled on U.S. 12 was a test module that was supposed to show the two-lane road could accommodate the rigs.

What was expected to be a three-night trip in April took more than two weeks as the shipment encountered weather delays and, in one instance, caused a power outage. It remains parked in Montana near the state line.

Even so, the Port of Lewiston anticipates other haulers of oversized freight will continue to use U.S. 12, although not at the same volume that Imperial Oil once anticipated.

“I believe that future oversized cargo going through the Port of Lewiston will consist of three to six units, maybe three or four times a year,” Port Manager David Doeringsfeld wrote in an email.

The port has had preliminary discussions with companies considering transporting pressure vessels and wind turbines.

The port netted $500,722 in revenue from the Imperial Oil deal in its most recent fiscal year [but spent 80 percent of that influx on security for the parked megaloads].

“An intense public education program well before the project would have alleviated much of the public concern,” Doeringsfeld wrote. “Due to the local controversy, it was unfortunate that most of Imperial’s modules were diverted to the Port of Pasco. The foregone revenue would have benefited our local economy.”

(By Elaine Williams, The Lewiston Tribune)

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