VANCOUVER, Wash. - The giant oil company machinery that's been sitting at the Port of Vancouver for months may soon be on the move...or not. The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) has issued a special permit for February 1, clearing the way for the first loads of extra-wide and tall equipment to be trucked along Idaho's scenic Highway 12. However, that does not mean the ConocoPhilips machinery, which is now at the Port of Lewiston, will be moving quite yet.
Those who object to the mega-loads could still request a judicial review. Linwood Laughy, one of those who originally protested the shipments as detrimental to the area's tourism industry, says they are still considering whether to make that move.
"What has occurred with ConocoPhillips is really a dress rehearsal. Some of the legal issues are still out there. The only time that there's been any decision made in a court of law about this, we won."
The ConocoPhillips equipment is headed for Montana to upgrade an oil refinery, and company spokespeople have connected its arrival to new jobs. Laughy's "dress rehearsal" reference concerns another 200 extra-tall and wide shipments for Imperial Oil/Exxon, also scheduled to take much the same route with a final destination at a tar sands oil project in Canada.
Conservation groups are concerned about the possible impact of making the two-lane road, adjacent to a wild and scenic river, into a transportation corridor for oversized equipment. Laughy says the process has been a learning experience for everyone involved.
"I now know things about highway surfaces and subsurfaces, and cranes, and all sorts of things that I had no idea I'd ever learn about, or even want to learn about."
ITD employees testified no one could ever remember a permit being challenged, so the steps to follow weren't clear. The agency issues thousands of special permits for the area each year, although Laughy says the sizes of these shipments are larger than anything ever approved to move along the two-lane highway.