LEWISTON, Idaho — The Idaho Transportation Department is considering updating its rules governing oversized “megaload” shipments.
Shipments of very large truck loads have been on hold along part of U.S. Highway 12 between Lewiston and the Idaho-Montana border, The Lewiston Tribune (http://bit.ly/2bVq49D ) reported. A federal judge in 2013 blocked the shipment of megaloads on that 100-mile stretch.
The transportation department is hoping to avoid further legal issues by proposing a rule amendment that says Highway 12 shipments would have to meet U.S. Forest Service criteria and possibly other safety requirements. Department spokesman Adam Rush says the additional requirements would be imposed by the state.
The issue was ignited in 2010 and 2011, when ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil got permits to transport massive equipment modules from the Port of Lewiston to the Montana border. The shipments were sometimes more than 200 feet long, weighed as much as 490,000 pounds and were wide enough to block both lanes of traffic.
The route runs through the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest and the Lochsa/Middle Fork of the Clearwater Wild and Scenic River Corridor. Environmental groups, the Nez Perce Tribe and residents living near the highway objected to shipments, although Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and other officials expressed support for the plan.
Only a few shipments actually made the trip. ExxonMobil, however, indicated at one point that it wanted to transport at least 100 megaloads on the route.
A 2011 Idaho lawsuit and legal challenges in Montana slowed shipments on the road, but a General Electric subsidiary received several megaload permits in 2013. The first shipment weighed 644,000 pounds and was 255 feet long and 21 feet wide. Protesters lined the route and at times formed a human chain across the highway.
The Nez Perce tribe and Idaho Rivers United also sued the U.S. Forest Service, saying it had a duty to regulate the giant shipments and protect the national forest. That case led to the 2013 injunction and is currently being mediated in federal court.
Information from: Lewiston Tribune, http://www.lmtribune.com