Oil companies still may find a way to move huge, so-called “megaloads” through a scenic corridor in Idaho, once traveled by Lewis and Clark. But for now at least, opponents of the extra-large shipments are hoping government red tape has closed that option.
Part of the appeal of this route to Alberta’s oil sands is that barges can take the huge equipment a portion of the way up the Columbia River. But the U.S. Forest Service, at the prompting of a federal judge, is now exerting its authority over the next leg of the trip – through a Wild and Scenic corridor across Idaho’s midsection. In a letter to the Idaho Department of Transportation, Forest Supervisor Rick Brazell says he can't authorize trucks so large that they halt traffic and require vegetation removal until it's clear how these disruptions would affect the “cultural and intrinsic values” of the area.
That’s music to the ears of Linwood Laughy, who lives along Highway 12 and is a vocal critic of the megaloads shippers.
“They thought it was going to be a cheap route, but it's turned out to be a very expensive route,:" Laughy says.
The new Forest Service criteria have put Hillsboro, Ore., based shipper Omega Morgan in a tough spot. It's trying to ship a 255-foot-long, 23-foot-tall piece of water purifying equipment up to Alberta.
In 2011, Exxon Mobil ended up using an alternate interstate route through Idaho to move its extra-large loads. But that required cutting the equipment down to fit beneath overpasses.
The Nez Perce Tribe recently sent a letter to the Forest Service in support of a formal evaluation of megaloads traffic on Highway 12. The route cuts through Nez Perce ancestral land and the Forest Service says the tribe would be part of any assessment process.
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