Second Megaload on Way to Arco

The first megaload has still not left the state.

A giant load of oil field equipment bound for the tar sands of Canada was to remain in a pullout north of Salmon on Tuesday night.  But a second megaload was expected to travel through Arco and enter Lemhi County early this (Wednesday) morning, state highway officials said.

The first of three outsized loads by Oregon shipper Omega Morgan crawled through downtown Salmon on January 5 and traveled another 35 miles north on Highway 93, before parking about ten miles below Lost Trail Pass and the Montana border.

The 901,000-pound shipment, which needs two lanes for travel and is 76 feet longer than a football field, gained permission on Friday to travel through Montana.  But forecasts of icy roads and blowing snow so far have prevented the rig from completing the final leg of its 470-mile journey through Idaho – following a route that cut through Arco, Leadore, and Salmon.

Weather permitting, state transportation officials said on Tuesday, the megaload may get underway as early as this evening – travel through Idaho is allowed from 10 pm to 6 am.

“We’d like to think the shipment will be moving over the pass and into Montana (tonight),” Idaho Transportation Department spokesman Bruce King said.

The second megaload, weighing over 800,000 pounds and nearly 350 feet in length, entered Idaho ten days ago.  It parked near Arco last week, awaiting passage of the initial load over Lost Trail Pass, elevation 7,014 feet.

King said worries about a “bunch-up” of outsized loads in Lemhi County have lessened with the likelihood that the first massive rig will cross into Montana tonight, as the second load travels through downtown Salmon.

Those are two of three shipments planned by Omega Morgan this winter across Oregon, Idaho, and Montana to Alberta, Canada.  It is unknown how many colossal rigs tied to a boom in the oil and gas industry in parts of North Dakota, Montana, and Canada are planned to crisscross Idaho in coming months.

The loads have been escorted by Idaho State Police (ISP) troopers in anticipation of protests that mostly have failed to materialize in Idaho.  But protests have caused road blockages in Oregon.

ISP Lieutenant Chris Weadick said escorts by six troopers have not squeezed resources in a 19-trooper district that stretches from Idaho Falls to Salmon.  He said all costs associated with the escorts are to be paid by Omega Morgan.

The agency hammered out an agreement with the shipper about compensation for hours, overtime, lodging, mileage, and more.

“The reimbursement is designed to take the burden off taxpayers,” Weadick said.

(By Laura Zuckerman, Post-Register)

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