Sunrise on the Clearwater


It was a cool, crisp sunrise over north-central Idaho Wednesday morning. And the four huge coke drums, subject of so much debate and legal wrangling, remain at the Port of Lewiston. ConocoPhillips has been trying to move the mega-loads (since spring) across U.S. Highway 12 and over to its Billings, Mont. facility. But environmentalists took their displeasure over that possibility all the way to the Idaho Supreme Court.


Now, Conoco wants to force the high court’s hand. In a motion filed Oct. 11, the oil giant asked the Idaho Supreme Court to fast-track its decision so that they can move the loads over Lolo Pass before the snow flies.
The ruling impacts much more than the Conoco shipments, as ExxonMobil is also anxious to roll more than 200 T-rex size loads across the same stretch.Meanwhile, a Sept. 29 accident along U.S. 12, which resulted in a major diesel spill, is still being investigated. Officials with the Idaho Transportation Department say recent rains could have hastened possible diesel seepage. The ITD has drilled three wells in the highway, hoping to remove the fuel. A fourth well is expected to be drilled within a week to help determine the extent of soil saturation. Oil absorbing booms and pads have also been placed in the Lochsa River in attempt to mitigate possible contamination.

A fuel tanker didn’t negotiate one of the many twists in the highway, resulting in a crash into a borrow pit on the north side of the highway. While the cleanup and investigation continues, the highway has been reduced to one lane with flaggers and stoplights directing traffic at the crash site, about 13 miles east of Lewiston.