A plan by Exxon Mobil Corp. to transport big and heavy pieces of refinery and mining equipment along U.S. 12 through the Lochsa River canyon is generating concerns from a regional environmental group.
The oil company wants to ship the massive components starting this fall from the Port of Lewiston to Canada. The route would go along the Wild and Scenic Lochsa River canyon, over Lolo Pass and into Montana before reaching its destination, the Kearl Oil Sands fields in northeastern Alberta.
The proposal involves hauling 200 oversized loads of Korean-made modules, each 24-feet wide, 30-feet tall and 162 feet long. The shipments are expected to exceed the legal weight limits for the Idaho stretch of the trip.
Montana officials have prepared environmental assessment and are now taking public comment, but residents in Idaho will not have a say on whether the state will approve the shipments.
The company needs the equipment over the next 50 years to extract an estimated 4.6 billion barrels of bitumen, a thick oily substance that can be refined for commercial use.
The company considered several shipping alternatives along the Pacific Coast before opting to ship the equipment up the Columbia and Snake rivers by barge, then by truck to the oil sand fields.
“Our bottom line is to accomplish this as safely and efficiently as we can with the least amount of impact,” Pius Rolheiser, of Imperial Oil, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil, told the Idaho Statesman.