Sen. Butch Otter, the Idaho Department of Transportation and Exxon Mobil have been planing for sometime now to move refining equipment from Korea, to the port of Lewiston, Idaho (the furthest inland sea port in the world), along US HW 12, going over Lolo Pass and the Bitteroot mountain range, and then up into Alberta Canada to the tar sands. This has been years in the making, yet Idahoans have been kept in the dark until about 4 months ago. Why did good old Butch and the DOT keep this in the dark for so long?
US HW 12 is not a suitable path. More than half of the road is 4 feet under the minimum requirements for Idaho's own highway standards and is one of the most deadly stretches of pavement in the U.S.A. These things they are talking about bringing through are 170-210 feet long, about 25 feet wide (?), and 30 feet tall. They will have to raise power lines through every town they pass through (which shuts the whole town down temporarily as a consequence) Not to mention it is a Wild & Scenic Highway, it passes through both (in Idaho) the Clearwater and Nez Perce National Forests, and is the only major highway on the Nez Perce Indian Reservation.
The Nez Perce Indians depend on the natural resources, the salmon and tourism for their cultural survival. The rest of the people in the area depend on these things as well. There is a $3.4 billion tourism industry in this area (consider that with the fact that there are only 1.3 million people in Idaho, and close to 1 million of them live in the Treasure Valley/Boise areas), and this will be severely effected by both traffic restraints and destruction of the roads that all of us depend on.
To make matters worse, according to the Idaho Statesmen a few months back, Exxon plans on using this route for 50 YEARS! Why do they not just swing north a few hundred more miles to Vancouver in BC and use the Trans Canadian Highway? It's a straight shot to Alberta, the roads are larger, and they are safer... I'll tell you why, there are less people here in Idaho than in Canada which means the less people that will complain...Besides, who really takes us out here in Idaho seriously? Another thing is $$$$$$. Canada is not laxed as we are on their environmental regulations. Exxon has not even filed an EIS...why?
And honestly, if we let them get away with shipping the equipment on our highway then what is going to stop them from transporting the oil that they get? If just one truck falls in the river, the entire Lolo and Clearwater Valley areas will instantly turn into ghost towns and the Nez Perce will find their home to be a toxic wasteland. Just as Exxon Mobil chief executive Rex Tillerson put it when talking about the catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico: "When these things happen, we are not well equipped to handle them..." "That's why the emphasis is always on preventing these things from occurring, because when they happen we are not well equipped to deal with them..."
Thom, I hope you can find time to research this more and expose this to a national audience, because if people outside our community are not aware of the abuse that is about to occur I don't think there will be anything we can do to stop it once things are up and rolling.
Here are some websites for further information: