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ConocoPhillips starts megaload project but will take its time

ConocoPhillips’ shipment of oversized loads through north central Idaho was slated to start the night of Feb. 1. The project is expected to last until early April, a spokesman said.

Rich Johnson of ConocoPhillips said hauling contractor Emmert International would leave the Port of Lewiston late Feb. 1 with the first of four coke drums destined for an oil refinery in Billings, Mont. Idaho Transportation Department permits allow the loads to roll on U.S. 12, along the Clearwater and Lochsa rivers, from 10 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.

Emmert plans to take four days, barring weather delays, to move the first load across the Montana line to Lolo. The second load will leave the port after the first arrives in Montana, Johnson said. After the second arrives in Lolo, Emmert will move both in a single convoy to Billings.

The two transporters will be off-loaded in Billings so Emmert can return them to Lewiston, in smaller sections on 18-wheel tractor-trailer rigs, he said. Back in Lewiston, the transporters will be reassembled and reloaded. ConocoPhillips and Emmert likely will store equipment at the port until early April given the project’s logistics, he said.

The loads will pull over periodically to allow traffic to pass, or as needed.

“We have several options for stops along the way each night depending on how things are progressing,” Johnson said.

Each load will be escorted by support vehicles, including police cars and an ambulance ConocoPhillips pays for, and will have a crew of about 30. During the day, the loads will be parked at approved turnouts and watched by personnel.

Two protests against the project were made in Lewiston recently.

“We respect their right to do that,” Johnson said. “Our main concern is safety, so we’re not going to do anything to jeopardize anyone’s safety.”

Idaho Transportation Department Director Brian Ness recently gave final approval to ConocoPhillips after a long battle between ConocoPhillips and opponents. The opponents said the loads would jeopardize safety, limit access to emergency medical services, and harm their properties and businesses. Ness agreed with a hearing officer who said the department followed state law in issuing the permits, and that opponents’ claims were speculative.


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