One very large truckload of Alberta-bound water purification equipment is headed Montana’s way over Lolo Pass.
The shipment was slated to start up U.S. Highway 12 from the Port of Wilma near Lewiston, Idaho, at 10 p.m. PDT Monday. It’s expected to take four night moves to reach the Montana line.
Barring weather snafus or other delays, the load and an accompanying coterie of pilot and escort vehicles, could start moving through Missoula and western Montana after dark on Sunday, according to the Montana Department of Transportation.
Duane Williams, administrator for MDT’s Motor Carrier Division, said Montana has yet to issue a permit but has approved a plan for the megaload to travel up the Blackfoot River, over Rogers Pass and into Canada at the Port of Sweetgrass. That’s the same system of two-lane highways over which a district judge barred Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil of Canada from transporting more than 200 megaloads early this year.
Neither Williams, Idaho Transportation Department spokesman Adam Rush nor a representative from the transport company, Omega Morgan of Oregon, would say who the coming load belongs to.
“At this time we’re only going to say that Omega Morgan got the contract to move the equipment and the crews are just doing their job,” Omega spokeswoman Olga Haley said in an e-mail. “Omega Morgan has a very small role in the entire scheme of things. It’s just that a load this size for one piece of equipment is very large and noticeable.”
The Idaho Transportation Department indicated in a press release last week that the Omega Morgan load is a whopping 300 feet long. Rush said that was the dimension he was originally given, but he corrected that on Monday down to 236 feet.
It’s still slightly longer than anything that has yet come over Lolo Pass. The longest of four ConocoPhillips coke drums that passed through Missoula en route to Billings in 2011 were 233 feet. A few of the 23 loads shipped up the Blackfoot to a Weyerhauser pulp mill in Alberta last autumn reached 234 feet.
The Omega Morgan load weighs 260 tons, and is 20 feet wide and 22 feet high – smaller than the ConocoPhillips drums (357 tons, 29 feet wide, 28 feet high).
Activists in Idaho, including Wild Idaho Rising Tide, were planning two demonstrations against the use by the megaload transporters of a federally designated wild and scenic byway along the Middle Fork of the Clearwater and Lochsa rivers. The first was set for Monday night west of Lewiston as the shipment passed from Washington into Idaho, and another for Wednesay night near Syringa, Idaho.
Brett Haverstick of the Friends of the Clearwater in Moscow, Idaho, said his group plans to help monitor the load to assure Omega Morgan adheres to state laws, including traffic delays of no more than 15 minutes.
“The thing that caught us off guard was our public records requests had shown that the initial intent was to truck this thing in spring of 2013, so this really came out of left field,” Haverstick said. “So we’re trying to gather up information and see what we can do.”