Concerns and Comments about the Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive Temporary Overweight Truck Route

February 6, 2014

John Perry, Field Operations Engineer/Team Leader

Brent Inghram, Environmental Program Manager

Federal Highway Administration Idaho Division

3050 Lakeharbor Lane, Suite 126

Boise, Idaho 83703

Jason Minzghor, District 1 Operations Manager

Scotty Fellom, District 1 Business Manager

Idaho Transportation Department

600 West Prairie Avenue

Coeur d’Alene, Idaho 83815

Sent via email and attachment

Concerns and Comments about the Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive Temporary Overweight Truck Route

Mr. Fellom, Mr. Inghram, Mr. Minzghor, Mr. Perry, and all,

On behalf of concerned Idaho and Washington citizens, potentially impacted human and non-human residents along the proposed Mammoet USA South, Inc. (Mammoet) transportation corridor, members and allies of Wild Idaho Rising Tide, Spokane Rising Tide, Kootenai Environmental Alliance, Friends of the Clearwater, and Palouse Environmental Sustainability Coalition, and air, water, and soil quality, we the undersigned submit for the public record the enclosed and attached comments about the Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive temporary overweight truck route and ramp (“project”) currently under review by the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), per National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements.

According to ITD documents, we understand that Mammoet has requested ITD permits to haul three overweight equipment shipments (“megaloads”) three to four weeks apart, starting in February 2014, from the Port of Wilma, Washington, to Great Falls, Montana [1].  To nominally minimize the disruption of rolling, night-time, route closures guided, if not guarded, by pilot and perhaps police vehicles, Mammoet’s latest 1.6-million-pound, 472-foot-long, 27-foot-wide, 16-foot-tall behemoths would again travel U.S. Highway 95 north to Interstate 90 (I-90), then move east through Coeur d’Alene on the interstate to the Sherman Avenue exit.  Averting undue stress to the Veterans Memorial Centennial Bridge, the transports would alternatively drive 5.5 miles along East Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive for approximately one hour, pass under the currently blocked I-90 overpass near Higgens Point, and re-enter Interstate 90 in the wrong direction, along a temporary on-ramp proposed for construction on the north side of the interstate.

Public records explain that this project would entail no construction along Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive or publicly accessible roadways, and that it would temporarily close I-90 for about ten minutes and remove six interstate concrete barriers on both sides of the westbound lanes, to facilitate access to the eastbound lanes after transport entry onto westbound lanes.  Apparently, ramp creation would necessitate “minor” grading of a 300-foot by 100-foot area north of Higgens Point and the interstate.  Surfacing this ramp with only gravel would bear the heaviest load ever attempted on this cross-Idaho route.

Because we the undersigned have been opposing transportation of tar sands and fossil fuel infrastructure components throughout the Northwest/Northern Rockies region since May 2010, we have directly experienced many of the detriments to our public resources and rights that these pursuits, especially by Mammoet, engender.  Our state transportation department and responsible elected and appointed officials have not been responsive to our concerns about these transports.  We are therefore co-writing and addressing this letter of concern to government agencies and representatives who may better consider and act to prevent the implications of this proposed Mammoet move and on-ramp construction for air and water quality, wildlife and habitats, the regional environment and inhabitants, and global climate.

Besides FHWA and ITD personnel in Boise, Coeur d’Alene, and Lewiston, Idaho, we the undersigned are sending this statement to Idaho Governor Otter, Kootenai and Latah county commissioners, the mayor and city councilors of Coeur d’Alene and Moscow, the Idaho departments of Environmental Quality and Fish and Game, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. departments of the Interior and Transportation, and two attorneys well-versed in transportation and megaload issues.  Some of these agencies and citizens have advised against other highway expansion projects proposed by ITD, due to likely environmental impacts.  We urgently encourage their response while Mammoet’s and ITD’s proposal package remains under review.

Construction and use of the Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive temporary overweight truck route would have significant impacts on the environment, which would directly challenge our interests, both as organizations and as American, Idaho, and Washington citizens, including but not restricted to the following impacts. Continue reading