Thursday, October 7, 2010

Busy Week for Highway 12 Oil Equipment Shipment News

Last week was a busy week in the world of Highway 12 information.
The Imperial Oil Modules began to arrive at the Port of Vancouver, Washington, raising questions about the permitting process and the pressure IO is putting on ITD to grant permits for the massively oversized loads regardless of the risks to Highway 12, the Lochsa River’s Wild and Scenic Corridor and the traveling public. Another concering aspect of these encroaching behemouths is the risk of accident and the lack of adequate planning for such an unfortuanate event. No matter what the likelihood of such an event, having a realistic plan in place to deal with such an emergency is imperative. One of the biggest problems with such a plan is the lack of adequate equipment to move these huge loads. Theresa Wagner , the Port of Vancouver Communications Director indirectly addressed this issue when she stated
“We have two 150 metric ton mobile harbor cranes, the two largest in North America," she said. "This could be some of the largest pieces we've lifted - the modules are in excess of 100 metric tons and could get up to 150 - and so we're using both cranes." The Imperial/Exxon loads have "slightly unusual" centers of gravity and each is different, Wagner added. "Each piece has to be carefully rigged and looked at, so it's very labor intensive," she said. To read the full article:

On Wednesday, September 29th, a diesel tanker crashed on Highway 12 at about milepost 136 spilling over 7500 gallons of diesel into the ditch on the side of the road. The fuel has been seeping under the road and was detected in the river over the weekend. The road is open to single lane traffic as crews drill below the road and work to remove the contaminated soil. No oversized loads will fit on that section of the road in its current condition. With so much diesel seeping under the road the possibility of having to remove the road surface, substrate and the contaminated soil under road bed is great. That’s what happened in 2003 after a tanker crashed spilling 6300 gallons near Knife Edge.
The Idaho County Free Press ran a story giving some background information on the current diesel spill and then allowing ISP Captain Lonnie Richardson to editorialize on the relationship between this wreck and the proposed oversized shipments – shipments that ISP stands to gain from financially:

On those past hazmat spills, "no one has weighed in on these," he said. "That's really odd to me." Yet at meetings, opposition is raised to oversized loads with environmental impact as one of the concerns. Richardson said these loads will be escorted by ISP troopers at speeds far slower and more controllable than those involved in last week's tanker crash. Were one of these loads to spill it is matter of cutting up and carting off metal, not hazardous material.
"We have stuff going up and down Highway 12 every day that is far more dangerous and would have a much greater environmental impact," he said

I take issue with these comments and the lack of balance in the story. While these loads will be traveling at slower speeds that doesn’t guarantee their safety. Metal is not a hazardous material on the same level as diesel fuel but one of these huge loads crashing into the river would disrupt the river bed and negatively affect the fragile fisheries, as well as possibly dump the contents of their fuel tank into the river. And there are still questions as to the ability of getting the loads out of the river.
Many people are concerned with the safety of tankers on Highway 12 as well as other hazardous materials. These same people are concerned that the change in semi-truck traffic patterns due to the oversize shipments by Conoco & Imperial would increase the likelihood of these kinds of single vehicle accidents as well as multi-vehicle wrecks. While the potential for negative environmental issues exist with these loads the major concern is safety. Captian Richardson summed it up the Highway 12 issue well when he said:

"That's an unforgiving road. There's no way to recover."

On Friday, October 1st, the Idaho Supreme Court heard arguments in the case concerning the legality of the permits ITD granted to ConocoPhillips to move 4 oversized mega-loads. ConocoPhillips is appealing the lower court ruling that the permits ITD issued were issued outside the legal framework of state law.

To read more on this story:

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