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ConocoPhillips’ 300-ton coke drums are shown at the Port of Lewiston, Idaho, last year. Photo by LINDA THOMPSON/Missoulian

The push truck helping move each of four huge loads of oil refinery equipment to Montana along U.S. Highway 12 must be disconnected to cross a major bridge in Idaho.

The stipulation, outlined in an over-legal load permit issued to ConocoPhillips last month, suggests the combined weight of the loads with the extra trucks behind will be too much for the Arrow Bridge east of Lewiston, Idaho, say litigants who oppose the move.

The 1,248-foot bridge was refortified this year in a project that lasted nearly six months.

Borg Hendrickson and husband Linwood Laughy are two of three Idaho residents along Highway 12 near Kooskia who took Idaho and ConocoPhillips to court to stop the shipments. Through a Freedom of Information Act request, they received an electronic copy of the trip permit issued Nov. 12 by the Idaho Transportation Department.

The couple sent copies of the 30-page permit and a list of "items of interest" it contained to media outlets, including the Missoulian, on Monday.

Also on the list:

• Emmert, ConocoPhillips' moving company, can barricade approved turnouts 24 hours in advance of each move.

• The haul will be allowed seven days a week, except for holidays and holiday weekends.

• Sheets of three-quarter-inch plywood will be laid in front of the tires of a load "should the shoulder show distress."

• The permit says highway traffic can't be diverted onto unpaved surfaces, but a number of turnouts in the transport plan aren't paved.

Hendrickson, Laughy and a third litigant, Peter Grubb, own businesses along Highway 12 they claim will suffer if the big loads are allowed through. They filed suit in mid-August in Idaho district court after the permits were first issued, claiming ITD violated its own regulations in approving them.

The case eventually reached the Idaho Supreme Court, where it was placed back in the hands of ITD. A hearing in front of an independent hearing officer is slated for Wednesday and Thursday at the Grove Hotel in Boise to decide the case. It begins at 9 a.m. each day.

ConocoPhillips has also applied for, but hasn't received, permits for the loads in Montana. As in Idaho, they would move only at night. Over a two-week period, they would enter the state at Lolo Pass, go through Missoula on Reserve Street, pass up the Clark Fork and Little Blackfoot rivers to MacDonald Pass and follow a circuitous route through Helena and central Montana to Billings.

Montana has said the loads can be permitted only if they can get through Idaho legally. Opponents have indicated they'll carry the fight to Montana as well.

***

Another oil giant, ExxonMobil, wants to move 207 oversized loads along the same Idaho route into Montana, up the Blackfoot River to Rogers Pass and, eventually, to Alberta, Canada. Neither state has approved those moves yet, even though the four ConocoPhillips loads and 34 Exxon modules are stockpiled at the Port of Lewiston.

A third company, Korean National Oil Corp.'s Harvest Operations, has broached a megaload project along the Clearwater and Lochsa rivers as well.

The Idaho permit states that each of the four ConocoPhillips loads "exceeds the normal capacity of all the bridges on the route ... "

Hendrickson and Laughy say a state official at a June hearing in Kooskia said vehicles can park at turnouts for up to 48 hours before they're deemed abandoned and eligible for towing.

"Here is what he did not say and the permit does say: ‘Emmert is authorized to barricade the approved turnouts for exclusive use for the wide loads up to 24 hours in advance for each move,' " Hendrickson and Laughy wrote Monday.

"There are 43 identified turnouts in Conoco's plan that may be barricaded. Twenty-five are within the Clearwater National Forest and 28 within the Wild and Scenic Rivers corridor."

They went on to note that, since it will take four nights for each of Conoco's four shipments to pass from Lewiston to Lolo Pass, it could mean blockage by Emmert of 43 turnouts up to five days for each shipment.

"Note, too, that Conoco's permit could be considered precedent-setting, which suggests that turnouts will also be barricaded for Imperial Oil's 207 planned shipments and Harvest Operation's 63 potential shipments, and any others that travel U.S. 12," they said.

Idaho transportation officials said they would have no comment on the issues raised by Laughy and Hendrickson before Tuesday.

Reporter Kim Briggeman can be reached at 523-5266 or at kbriggeman@missoulian.com.

 

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