Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Crossing the Center Line: Forest Service, ITD Disagree on Whether Future Mega-Loads Should be Permitted

Posted By on Tue, Jul 9, 2013 at 9:29 AM

The ongoing debate over mega-loads, crawling through some of North Central Idaho's most scenic byways, came front and center again July 8.

This morning's Lewiston Tribune reports that officials from the Idaho Transportation Department met July 8 with Rick Brazell, Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest Supervisor, to talk about the massive shipments. Brazell says that if mega-loads are to travel U.S. Highway 12 along the Clearwater and Lochsa rivers, they shouldn't be allowed to take any more than 12 hours to travel through the canyon and should require other traffic to be stopped.

U.S. 12, which winds through the Nez-perce-Clearwater National Forest, is operated by the State of Idaho through a right-of-way easement. But in February, a federal judge ruled that the U.S. government has the ultimate authority and, in fact, should regulate the mega-loads.

"The Forest Service has previously indicated its desire to protect the Wild and Scenic corridor," said Idaho Rivers United Conservation Director Kevin Lewis. "Now that it's been established that it has that ability and authority, we look forward to working with the agency to protect this very special place."

The Omega Morgan Corporation has recently asked the ITD to move a 255-foot-long rig, weighing 644,000 pounds, from Lewiston to the Idaho-Montana border via U.S. 12, but Brazzell arges that the mega-load would not meet his criteria and, therefore, would not support it.

But ITD officials told Brazzell that their agency might go ahead and issue permits to such a mega-load, but will tell the shippers that they must also seek additional authorization from the Forest Service, according to the Tribune.

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