A lot has been in the news lately about Exxon Mobile’s project in Canada. I do not feel that I have the understanding to take on the rights and wrongs of sand oil and what Canada should or shouldn’t be doing, but I am concerned about the creation of a permanent “high and wide” industrial corridor along some of Montana’s most scenic riverways.
Highways 12 and 200 along the Lochsa and Blackfoot Rivers are two of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring drives in western Montana. To change them would be like improving the route to Logan Pass to accommodate big rigs.
Montana’s own tourism website describes the Blackfoot River as: “a dashingly beautiful stream that provides outstanding whitewater excitement, incredible scenery, and dependable fishing. It’s Missoula’s favorite recreational river.” How will the state reconcile this statement with the actuality of behemoth trucks going up Highway 200? What provisions are being made for wildlife protection, water quality and the impact on tourism and recreation?
Besides the damage that will be done to Highways 12 and 200, has anyone considered the rest of the route? These trucks have to get through Missoula somehow and I assuming that will be on Reserve Street. On a good day or night, Reserve Street traffic is a nightmare. What will the traffic be like if one of these trucks breaks down or is behind schedule and comes through during daytime? The proposal is for a one-year transport permit, but once the changes to the roads are made it makes it easier to extend the permits for future transport (the sand oil beds are expected to be worked until 2060).
I have also heard a lot about job creation. Of course Missoula needs as many jobs created as possible, but this project is short-term and Exxon Mobile is not required to hire local workers. How does it help Missoula workers if Exxon hires out-of-state employees? If they hire out-of-state, the short-term is good for the hotel and restaurant industry, but no payroll taxes from construction workers will go into Montana’s coffers.
We already have commercial routes on Highways 15 and 90. If these transports must be made through Montana, let Exxon Mobile figure out a way to use our established routes. A shorter route would be through Canada, so my final question is: What exactly will Montana be getting out of this deal and if it’s such a great thing why aren’t these parts going into Vancouver and across Canada Highway 1?