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Posts Tagged ‘megaloads’

Always busy at KEA, it seems even busier lately.  Some things going on that we care about:

The megaloads controversy remains as muddled as ever. Idaho has given a go-ahead to trips up Highway 95 from Lewiston, through Moscow and Coeur d’Alene, and then along I-90 through Montana to Canada’s tar sands.  Two were permitted, but only one smaller load has traveled through town. The permit for the second, larger one has expired, but ITD has indicated a willingness to issue permits on demand and could come any time. Meanwhile, a Montana court has halted trips along the Highway 12 corridor due to a failure to do a proper environmental analysis. That case is likely to be appealed by the oil companies.  And finally, as a reminder that highway transport is not without accidents, there’s a huge roll of toilet paper sitting in the Lochsa River at the moment. – Missoulian

We knew it was going to be a problem, and sure enough, the Sierra Club and the Center for Environmental Law and Policy have filed a lawsuit over PCB pollution in the Spokane River. According to the lawsuit, the Washington Department of Ecology is violating the law by failing to prepare a plan for cleaning up PCBs in the River. – Spokane Riverkeeper at Center for Justice

The debt ceiling debate may be getting all the attention in Washington DC, but Congress is still causing environmental mischief.  Perhaps having learned a lesson in allowing environmental riders in the continuing resolution battle months ago, the administration has recently issued several clear veto threats on anti-environmental bills and budget riders. — The Wildlife News

Finally, we’re still very much Woodsy the Owl aficionados, and we came across this lament recently. Has Smokey the Bear completely overtaken Woodsy as the charismatic mega-mascot for conservation?  Give a hoot. Environmental Law Prof Blog

 

 

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Our Friends at Friends of the Clearwater give us the update:

The Idaho Transportation Department has issued (2) permits for Exxon/Imperial Oil mega-loads to travel north on US 95 and will be escorted by two Idaho State Police officers, two pilot cars, and three flagging/signing crews. The loads cannot exceed 30mph and are required to pull over every 15 minutes to relieve traffic. Permits go into effect on Monday June 27th.

The first mega-load to travel north from the Port of Lewiston will be 208 feet long, 23 feet wide, 13.5 feet tall and weigh over 400,000 lbs. It is permitted to travel between 10:00pm – 5:30am. Cost for the permit was $317.00. The second mega-load is 14 feet wide and other dimensions are not known. It will however be permitted to travel during day-light hours. Cost for the second permit was $28.00.

Meanwhile, the editors of the Coeur d’Alene Press say, and we quote: “Let the trucks roll.”

As we commented at the Press’s website: We’re no fans of the Alberta tar sands project, but we’re under no illusions that we’ll stop it here in Coeur d’Alene at the intersection at Walnut Ave. But the Press misses the point here. There WERE problems on Highway 12 — with delays up to an hour and power knocked out to rural areas. ITD issues permits but there are no consequences for non-compliance. The Press says “If problems do surface, the state can prevent future trips.” but I don’t think anyone really believes that. It certainly hasn’t happened yet.

It’s not the 15 minute delay that we’re worried about, but the hour delay that happens anyway. It’s not waiting in traffic behind a load at 2:13 am, but trying to sleep in the neighborhood where the traffic gets backed up at 2:13 am practically every night this summer with two Idaho State Police officers, two pilot cars, and three flagging/signing crews.

These are significant intrusions and should be given more scrutiny than a rubber stamp on a $317 permit.

 

 

 

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ITD says the mini-megaload can make this turn from Hwy 95 on to I-90

A representative from Idaho Department of Transportation briefed the Coeur d’Alene City Council last night regarding the relatively new concept of “mini-megaloads” slated to be shipped – hello – through Coeur d’Alene d’Alene this summer. The loads are massive pieces of oil processing equipment being shipped from Korea to the massive tar sands project in Alberta, Canada.

According to the briefing, the “half-height” loads are a reduced version of what was originally proposed to head up Highway 12 through the Lochsa – Clearwater corridor. Originally thought to be not feasible and too expensive to cut down, the new, smaller loads are still 24 feet wide (two traffic lanes) and an amazing 208 feet long. (A typical semi trailer is 8 feet wide and 53-ish feet long.) ITD says there are some 62 loads proposed to come through Coeur d’Alene beginning in Late June and running through the end of September. ITD says the movement will be done at night between 9 pm and 4 am. Traffic will be stopped at each intersection as the mini-mega passes through town.

The route brings the loads through Coeur d’Alene along Highway 95 to Interstate 90 where the mini-megaload then heads east to Canada. Locals will understand that this route has a couple of tight corners for a 208-foot-long cargo.

We had excellent intern Kayla Baker take a look at the route to illustrate to approximate scale what we think could present some problems. ITD says the mini-mega will travel the right-turn ramp at the Walnut Street intersection, and the mini-mega will “swing wide” at the I-90 intersection. To which we say good luck with that.

A tight left turn on Hwy 95 at Walnut in Coeur d'Alene

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We received notice today that our colleagues at Idaho Rivers United have filed a lawsuit in federal court in Boise claiming that the U.S. Forest Service violated the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act by allowing Idaho’s Department of Transportation to issue permits for transporting megaloads up the Lochsa / Clearwater corridor.

The lawsuit claims that the Forest Service simply abdicated their authority and responsibility to protect the Wild and Scenic corridor. The lawsuit, brought by attorneys at Advocates for the West, states: “Rather than acting to prevent the establishment of a high-and-wide corridor through the Clearwater National Forest, the Forest Service has cooperated with ITD and authorized modifications to the right-of-way. As a result, the Forest Service has facilitated and effectively approved the mega-shipments to proceed up Highway 12.”

The lawsuit points out that the megaload shipments would have serious impacts on river-running tourism trade in the spring and summer. According to IRU, “Tying up the winding, narrow, two-lane road — along with its scenic pullouts — during the spring and summer tourist season would also restrict recreational access to the Wild & Scenic rivers and adjacent forest.”

In the IRU press release, Justin Walsh, an outfitter and guide says, “The amazing whitewater is only part of the reason people buy trips from me. It’s the scenery, the ambiance, the overall grandeur of the place. There’s no question that the river remains the way it is because of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, and there’s no question that those qualities would be impacted by these loads of super-sized equipment sitting along the river.”

As the first two megaloads were met by protesters as they passed through Missoula overnight, the oil industry and their governmental facilitators now have more explaining to do in a federal courtroom.

 

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For readers following the Highway 12 megaload issue, we thought we’d pass along a summary we received recently from the neighbors on the ground. The first two of ConocoPhillips megaloads traveling from Lewiston to Billings have made it through Idaho and are now traveling through Montana. (According to the most recent report, one load has reached Lolo, and one is “stuck” on the side of the road near Lolo Hot Springs.)

The loads traveling through Idaho have been monitored by an intrepid group of some four dozen night-owl volunteers, including  our colleagues at Friends of the Clearwater, observing, videotaping, and tracking the progress — and lack thereof.

ConocoPhillips said the shipments would take four nights each. The first shipment took six nights, the second shipment took seven. Including layovers, the eight days planned for the megaload shipments turned into a total of thirty-four.

Also, according to monitors, among other annoyances and permit violations, the shipments:

  • delayed traffic longer than 10 or 15 minutes multiple times during both shipments.
  • driven wheels outside the fog lines.
  • scraped a rock face.
  • diverted traffic unto unpaved turnout surfaces.
  • broken highway signs.
  • torn tree limbs throughout the corridor
  • disturbed residents along the highway with noise and lights from the 20 vehicle convoy

Idaho state police and snowplows have been diverted to accommodate the shipments. And, as if to emphasize the economic irony of it all, the ConocoPhillips shipments requested at least seven regular trucking companies avoid using the highway.

Meanwhile, perhaps watching this Highway 12 fiasco unfold, Exxon’s shipper, Mammoet, has quietly applied for and obtained permits in Washington, and have been shipping reduced-sized loads via interstate for about a month. It isn’t entirely clear whether these are the same loads originally intended for Highway 12. Exxon is also reducing the size of supposedly-irreducible loads already in Lewiston to interstate-size. In any event, Exxon shipments are moving between 10 pm and 4 am through Spokane’s I-90 corridor using the established Spokane and Spokane Valley “high route.” The shipments have Washington State Patrol escorts and are escorted by at least three pilot cars. We presume these smaller shipments then continue along I-90 through North Idaho, but we have not yet seen ITD documents or approvals.

 

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A great presentation today by Peter Grubb of ROW Adventures about the Lochsa megaloads. As promised, here is a quick follow-up. First, in response to a question as to “what standard” the hearing examiner would use to make his decision, the “general” standard is given in the IDAPA rule 39.03.09.100 (pdf) (our emphasis added) :

100.RESPONSIBILITY OF ISSUING AUTHORITY.

01. Primary Concerns. The primary concern of the Department, in the issuance of overlegal permits, shall be the safety and convenience of the general public and the preservation of the highway system. (4-5-00)
02. Permit Issuance. The Department shall, in each case, predicate the issuance of a overlegal permit on a reasonable determination of the necessity and feasibility of the proposed movement. (4-5-00)

Of course, the applicant for a SHT* load needs to comply with all of ITD’s other regulations as well. Including the “10-minute rule,” buried grammatically in IDAPA 39.03.16.100.01 (pdf) (our emphasis):

01. Overlegal permits will not normally be issued for movements which cannot allow for the passage of traffic as provided in IDAPA 39.03.11, “Rules Governing Overlegal Permittee Responsibility and Travel Restrictions,” Subsection 100.05, except under special circumstances when an interruption of low volume traffic may be permitted (not to exceed ten (10) minutes) or when adequate detours are available.

Thanks again to Peter Grubb for a great presentation, and his courage and persistence in taking on this fight.

*Super Huge Truck

Also as promised, here’s the video Peter suggested:

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