A new, circuitous route for controversial megaload

Equipment will pass through Southern Idaho on its way to Canada's tar sands oil fields.

cmsewell@idahostatesman.comDecember 4, 2013 

  • THE DIFFERENCE A PERMIT MAKES

    Megload with a special permit

    Length: 376 feet

    Height: 18 feet

    Width: 22 feet

    Idaho maximum truck size without a special permit:

    Weight: 105,000 pounds or 129,000 pounds, depending on the road

    Length: 75 feet

    Height: 14 ft

    Width: 8 feet, 6 inches

After hitting roadblocks on a route through North Idaho, a trucking company hired by a General Electric Co. subsidiary to ship the massive refinery machinery to western Canada has mapped a route through Southern Idaho and Eastern Oregon.

HOW BIG?

The megaload — trucks, trailers and cargo — is longer than a football field and weighs almost 1 million pounds. It will not reach the Idaho state line until Dec. 7 or 8 because it is traveling only at night and at very low speeds.

WHAT'S THE HOLDUP?

The water purification system left Umatilla, Ore., on Monday night after being delayed a day at the Columbia River port by protesters. The protesters oppose the shipment because it will cross tribal and environmentally sensitive lands and because the equipment is to be used in Canada's tar sands oil development.

The protesters say recovering and burning tar sands oil is highly polluting. Two were arrested Sunday after they used heavy steel tubes to lock themselves to the truck, the East Oregonian newspaper reported. The load was stalled Tuesday night due to bad weather.

DOES IT HAVE AN IDAHO PERMIT?

The Idaho Transportation Department said it is working with Omega Morgan on a permit for the shipment. As of Tuesday, ITD had not issued a permit and hadn't signed off that all the bridges and culverts the load would cross can handle the weight, said ITD spokesman Adam Rush.

WHY THE ROUNDABOUT ROUTE?

Any route with overpasses is out because of the load's height. So a longer route along rural state highways is being considered. The Idaho route will start near Homedale and run south of the Snake River to a river crossing near Mountain Home. Then it will travel north, including a 20-mile stretch along the Salmon River, before traversing the 7,014-foot Lost Trail Pass into Montana.

For the Oregon segment, the load can travel only after dark and for no more than eight hours, with frequent pullouts if traffic needs to get by. Omega Morgan spokeswoman Holly Zander said she expects similar travel rules to be issued by Idaho.

WHY IS A PERMIT REQUIRED?

Any shipment traveling to or through Idaho that is over certain width, length, height or weight requires an ITD permit. Once issued, the permit can't technically be appealed, said Rush. But, he added: "An interested party can intervene by requesting a contested case hearing, which allows them to present their concerns to the transportation department."

ARE MORE MEGALOADS ON THE WAY?

Omega Morgan plans to move two more comparable-sized loads in December and January, but a schedule hasn't been determined, Zander said.

HOW LONG WILL THE IDAHO LEG TAKE?

It should be five to six days and will require rolling road closures along the entire 476-mile route. Idaho Power will escort it through its service area and, if necessary, relocate any power lines to accommodate the oversized load. Idaho Power spokesman Kevin Winslow said the hauler, not Idaho Power customers, would pay for any line-relocation costs.

HOW DO THEY MOVE THAT LOAD?

Omega Morgan will use one pulling truck and two pushing trucks with a combined 1,500 horsepower, said Zander. On smooth, straight roads, the transport can go about 35 miles per hour. "Omega Morgan is no stranger to large moves. We do hundreds of moves a year, each time taking great care to move our loads safely. We have one of the best safety records in the industry," Zander said.

HOW DID WE GET HERE?

The company's initial plan to move several loads through North Idaho met with public resistance and legal challenges because the load would cross tribal land and travel along the federally protected Lochsa-Clearwater wild-and-scenic-river corridor.

In August, the Oregon-based hauler was able to truck a 255-foot-long, 640,000-pound, 21-foot-wide water evaporator along the narrow U.S. 12 route. A second load was blocked by a federal judge who ruled in favor of the Nez Perce Tribe and environmentalists.

The new shipment proposed for travel through Idaho is 47 percent longer and 41 percent heavier than the August load.

Cynthia Sewell: 377-6428, Twitter: @CynthiaSewell

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