The winter storm over the weekend stranded a truck carrying a very large load just south of Pendleton, Oregon, Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) representative Adam Rush said, but it’ll arrive on Idaho streets before long.
Holly Zander, spokesperson for transportation firm Omega Morgan, said the company will keep a close eye on the weather and continue its journey once conditions clear up.
“It’s fully dependent on the weather at this point,” Zander said. “We’re just evaluating it on a daily basis to see.”
The cargo, a heat exchanger bound for an oil drilling operation in Canada, weighs about 330,000 pounds, Zander said. The total weight along with the truck, trailer, and other transportation equipment comes to a little over 901,000 pounds, according to an ITD permit application.
But the megaload’s passage through southern Idaho is not without controversy. Helen Yost of the activist group Wild Idaho Rising Tide expressed concerns ranging in scale from local traffic delays to major environmental degradation around the Alberta tar sand facilities.
“Our concern is mostly climate change, but we can’t ignore that this is ruining native lands and lives,” Yost said. “And then we sympathize with our fellow Idahoans in that together, our public resources – our roads and bridges, and our rights to them – are really getting damaged by this sort of temporary corporate takeover.”
Yost also worries that the massive load could damage roads, bridges, power lines, and trees, creating public safety hazards.
Her organization is planning to stage protests as the load moves through Idaho, she said, but doesn’t yet know exactly when – they’ll be timed to coincide with the shipment’s arrival at various points along its route.
The truck has already encountered protesters in Oregon, Zander said – at least two people used locking devices to secure themselves to the pull truck on December 1. The truck had to be partially disassembled for police to gain access to the protesters, she said.
As for road damage, Zander said the load’s weight is distributed across 128 tires. When the pressure is spread out, she said, it’s no worse for roads than other, more common types of commercial vehicles.
Omega Morgan ships 300 megaloads every year, Zander said, and most get little or no opposition. In this case, she suspects, protesters are motivated by political opposition to tar sands oil operations.
But Yost said there’s plenty of room for objection by people on both sides of the political spectrum.
“Everybody from the libertarians who might be concerned about property and the way that’s abused, to people who are concerned about climate change and damage to native lands,” she said.
ABOUT THE MEGALOAD
Cargo: Heat exchanger
Width: 22.2 feet
Height: 18.11 feet
Length: 376 feet
Weight: 330,000 pounds (cargo), 901,000 pounds (including truck and transportation equipment)
~Source: Idaho Transportation Department
(By John Funk, Idaho Press-Tribune)