Idaho politics: Why heavy trucks are a weighty issue for Butch Otter (UPDATED, 3:29 p.m.)

UPDATE, 3:29 p.m. Democratic candidate Keith Allred now is taking a harder line against the U.S. Highway 12 shipments. During a town hall meeting in Boise in July, Allred was noncommittal, and criticized Otter for consulting with only supporters of the project.

Now, Allred believes the shipments pose a threat to emergency medical response along Highway 12. "I won't support permits for the mega-loads unless better answers are found to some of the important questions that have been raised."

UPDATE, 2:08 p.m. As I mention in this post, I asked Gov. Butch Otter's office to explain how the governor arrived at the $10 million bond figures, and whether there is adequate assurance that this is sufficient.

Here's the response I received from spokesman Jon Hanian:

As a result of three public meetings regarding U.S. 12 and comments voiced at Capital for a Day in Pierce, the Governor has asked the Idaho Transportation Department to require a damage bond as a condition for granting any future permits for ConocoPhillips.

ITD recommended a $10 million bond. That recommendation was based on a 'worst-case scenario' — i.e.: the complete failure of the longest bridge on U.S. 12, the Arrow Bridge — and the cost to replace it and mitigate any environmental damage to the Clearwater River. The Montana DOT is also requiring a $10 million bond. It should be noted that as a result of a careful review of the statistical data, we do not believe this additional step is necessary; however, the Governor wanted to be responsive to those citizens who raised concerns.

The following agencies were contacted and engaged in this process:



Bureau of Homeland Security

Idaho State Police

USDA Forest Service

U.S. Geological Survey

Northwest Passage Scenic By-Ways Advisory Team

The Nez Perce Tribal Executive Council

The Nez Perce Tribal Employment Office

Clearwater County

Idaho County

Lewis County

Nez Perce County

This bond will provide insurance and additional peace of mind. ConocoPhillips agreed to the bond as a condition of its requested permits.

It will also be a condition of permits for the proposed shipments of Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil. Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil proposes to run a test module of its shipments on U.S. 12 in late October or early November.

Here's my original post:

On July 20, former Interior Secretary (and former Idaho Gov.) Dirk Kempthorne found himself in the uncomfortable position of explaining his relationship with Big Oil.

Appearing before a congressional panel, Kempthorne was left to explain the inexplicable: the stunning, sweeping magnitude of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. “All of us — present and former administration officials, governors, members of Congress and citizens — never contemplated an accident of this magnitude could ever happen. Had we thought so, I am confident that both the executive and the legislative branch would have worked on a bipartisan basis to prevent it.”

Kempthorne’s words take on added resonance as Idaho’s current governor explains his relationship with Big Oil.
Butch Otter supports allowing oil industry to ship oversized equipment on Idaho highways — along a breaktaking but nerve-racking stretch of U.S. Highway 12 that traverses the Lochsa River canyon. Unlike Kempthorne, who merely had to face members of Congress, Otter has to answer to the electorate, in three months.

The shipments controversy exposes some of Otter’s potential weaknesses. An uninspiring record on environmental issues. A cozy relationship with business, such as the trucking industry.

It also plays into one of Democratic challenger Keith Allred’s recurring themes — the suggestion that Otter makes snap decisions without vetting things out. Allred didn’t take a position for or against the shipments at a recent town hall meeting in Boise, but has criticized Otter for consulting only with shipping supporters.

Even though Allred is troublingly noncommittal, this issue remains a weightier problem for Otter. He enthusiastically supported the shipments in a January 2009 letter to the Port of Lewiston. Granted, that was long before Deepwater Horizon. But it also was long before Idahoans had a clue that Otter expected one of the state’s most scenic corridors to accommodate module shipments that would block both lanes of traffic and could exceed 300 tons per load.

This week, Otter announced commitments for $10 million in bonds apiece from two companies: ConocoPhillips, which is planning four shipments to Montana; and ExxonMobil subsidiary Imperial Oil, which wants to make 200 shipments to the Kearl oil sands of Alberta. I can only guess as to whether the money provides adequate political damage control, or sufficient environmental protection.

I sent spokesman Jon Hanian an e-mail late Thursday afternoon, asking how Otter arrived at the $10 million bond figures, and whether there is adequate assurance that this sum is sufficient. I haven’t gotten a response, but will update this post when I do.

I’ll concede that there’s no easy answer to the how-safe-is-safe question. How can anyone know — or say without hesitation — that $10 million can cover anything?

Don’t take my word for it.

Ask Kempthorne.

Get Twitter updates on my blog and column and Statesman editorials. Become a follower. You can also get updates on Facebook's Idaho Statesman Opinion Page.

1282339756 Idaho politics: Why heavy trucks are a weighty issue for Butch Otter (UPDATED, 3:29 p.m.) Idaho Statesman Copyright 2014 Idaho Statesman . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


first, it's not 10million. It's 20 million. 10 each per your own writing.

What exactly do you want a governor do with the environment?

-Invasive species boat inspection was passed (much to the dismay of your own environmentalist Zimowsky).
-He is against the Canyon County Commission and supports 2C emission testing.
- He stood up to the EPA on this own private property rights issue.

-He and F&G instituted a SUCCESSFUL wolf hunting season
-He is fighting against the USFWS on the current wolf case
-He understands Idaho has a huge resouce in our environment and wants to capitalize on it.

these are just off the top, I'm sure some gov. staffer could provide some information (unlike your article).

What more do you want?

Current Wolf Case

Actually, the state of Idaho is working WITH the USFWS on the current wolf case. They were on the same side on the proposal to split the delisting of the population (delist Idaho & Montana, keep Wyoming listed). The judge says the law does not allow splitting.


I must "update" my post. :-)
he is working against the Fed Courts and the wolf-wackos.


"relationship with Big Oil.

Butch Otter supports allowing oil industry to ship oversized equipment on Idaho highways"


IF the giant loads were for huge solar panels or giantic wind towers, would your article be the same?????

It has NOTHING to do with the companies being oil companies.

They want to ship big loads on an Idaho highway are willing to PAY MONEY for the impact of that.

Get a grip on your emotions, KR.

Do some research

The hauling of mega loads over US 12 from Lewiston to Missoula has been in the works for over a year and yet the area of impact only learned about it recently. WHY? The $10m bond from each of these companies is a CYA endeavor by the Gov to attempt to negate the negative attitude by those in the affected area. It wasn't until a town hall meeting in an area town that suddenly there's a $10m bond. Pure and simple CYA. The road has been quietly improved via these companies via $$ to ITD in preparation for the project. This is nothing more than a political endeavor in regard to an upcoming election. These loads will be 240 ft long, 24 ft wide and 30 ft tall traveling for 15 minutes and then pulling over. The problem is there is probably less and 5 places along US 12 which will accommodate such pull overs. Traffic, load and cross country, over Lolo Pass will be hampered and prevented. These loads were coming via the Gulf of Mexico through the mid-US to Canada. Why are these loads even coming through the US. US 12 is not designed and recently enhanced to even begin to accommodate such transports. CYA, guv, but remember these people vote and there is more to this than enhancing the port of Lewiston.

I read what you wrote

and I still fail to see the negative impact - I think you're saying these loads are really big and scary and you want someone to have given you more time to get used to the idea of hauling a limited number of really big loads at times when very few, if any, people will even see them...
"I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn't learn something from him." Galileo


These mega loads will essence block traffic and impact negatively the cities, towns, small burgs, but more importantly significantly impact any emergency in that area. You need to drive that road US12 to truly get an idea of the problem.


Yes, they will block traffic.

traffic accidents block traffic.
Moving houses blocks traffic.
FUNERALS block traffic.

Stop crying.

US12 is great! So is US20. And 2, and 26, and 30, 89, 93 and 95.
US91 however STINKS!

Which one goes to Jackpot?


"Say a prayer for the pretender..."-Jackson Browne


They are willing to pay for their impacts? ExxonMobil paid a fraction of the cost of the Valdez spill, 20 years after the fact. They paid zero income taxes in the USA last year because of loopholes and accounting gimmicks.

Do you really think they're willing to pay for the impacts they cause? Do you trust them on our highways? The state is getting what, $1,000 per shipment? Big deal.

BTW permits

BTW the road improvements were made by ITD prior to any permit being issued. Certainly horse before the cart and then CYA.


The company did pay for the improvements as well as several other mitigating issues (Like raising cableways and powerlines, etc.) and this process started around 4 years ago.

"I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn't learn something from him." Galileo

4 years ago!

And the public and those individuals impacted by the proposal are just now hearing about it.

CYA big time! There was no environmental discussion or knowledge with the locals until the permit was issued.

Galileo never met a GOP presidential candidate or president.

"The Internet is a great way to get on the net." Bob Dole.

"I'm the mayor, I can do whatever I want until the courts tell me I can't." Sarah Palin.

"The same folks that are bombing innocent people in Iraq were the ones who attacked us in America on September the 11th." George Bush.

"Trees cause more pollution than automobiles." Ronald reagan.

"We ought to declare that we will be free of energy consumption in this country within a decade."
Mike Huckabee.

"I'm happy to learn that after I speak you're going to hear from Ann Coulter. That's a good thing. I think it's important to get the views of moderates." --right before Coulter called John Edwards a "fa*g*got" --
Mitt Romney

But the Pope didn't like him at ALL...


"Say a prayer for the pretender..."-Jackson Browne

David & Goliath mentality in search of a giant to slay

Wasn't there a sci-fi film made about revenge of the trucks?

Dennis Weaver in an Orange Valiant chased by a semi.


"Say a prayer for the pretender..."-Jackson Browne

Get a Grip???

Planning for these mega-loads has been conducted in secret for at least two years with zero notice to the many residents of the Highway 12 corridor who might be impacted by these proposals. What ever happened to a "government of the people"??? Now Governor Otter is trying to CYA with a bond that will only compensate the state for damage to the road and other infrastructure. No compensation would be made to ordinary Idahoans for their loss of income, property values or a loved one who dies of a heart attack while their family is stuck in traffic while trying to get to the hospital.

There were no secrets

This isn't some conspiracy to get away with something - This is a private company who has done their due diligence on the best way of getting equipment from one place to another. It's no different than the company hauling giant windmill parts or the Canadian outfit doing exploratory drilling right out there by Fruitland - Just because you weren't personally notified doesn't make it a scandal or wrong...
"I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn't learn something from him." Galileo

The author of this article never disclosed the permitting costs

the trucking company had to sustain. They have to be enornmous. Also on the 300 ton load, the author never told us of the configuration of the vehicle. How many axles does the trailer have? Most states have an 40 ton limit on conventional tractor trailers. Engineers contend that when you spread the load out, with many axles, you limit the road damage.

You expect a lot of these guys.


"Say a prayer for the pretender..."-Jackson Browne


I'm not faulting the company - I place the blame squarely on ITD and Governor Otter. Further, "It's no different than the company hauling giant windmill parts or the Canadian outfit doing exploratory drilling right out there by Fruitland" - that's a laugh! Show me a wind turbine component that's 220' long, 24' wide, 29' high and weighing over 500,000 lbs! This isn't a "normal" oversized load as you're trying to allude to.

Dave is right - the problems on US 12 are ITD and Otter

Well said, Dave. You are on point and both ITD and the Governor ignore the adverse impacts what these over sized loads will have on US 12 and the communities along the way. Both ITD and the Governor have failed us again in their interests to support their corporate buddies and to maintain Idaho's corporate welfare program. Average citizens do not have a voice nor or are considered part of the plan.

Davel, You are so right!

Davel, You are so right in your comments -- this US 12 is a unique area of Idaho and the people who live near and around it depend on it 24/7 to do everything and anything.

They got jet choppers now, padre.


"Say a prayer for the pretender..."-Jackson Browne

Why no coverage of the

Why no coverage of the debate for the office of governor of Idaho?

Don't forget

Crapo and other politicians want to increase weight limits for all trucks on our highways--even after studies report that motorists are subsidizing big-rigs.

What's the point of borrowing money to improve the highways when they're going to allow commercial vehicles to tear them up?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against the trucking industry--but they need to pay their fair share and operate in such a way to minimize damage to the highways.

Drive US 12

Those supporting these mega loads need to drive US 12 to get a realistic idea of what this "secret" project really is. These loads are 240 ft long, 24 ft wide and 30 ft tall. I've driven that road many a time and in fact just recently. This road connects North Central Idaho to Montana and is designated as a wild and scenic highway for a reason. It is not unusual this road is completely closed in the winter time due to the amount of snow.

Bottom line, these mega loads have been handled on other roads in US and this US 12 should not be included in those endeavors.

You are contradicting yourself

So when the road is completely closed in winter due to snow, how do emergency vehicles get through, and how do the people who live in the area use the highway to do anything and everything 24/7? Does not hyperbole pose a conflict for someone who sees himself as a straight talker?

Yeah, whatever. Pass the biscuits.


"Say a prayer for the pretender..."-Jackson Browne


BTW, US 12 transects the controversial abundant wolf country. The river is deep and clear so clear you can see the bottom.

Agencies listed

An impressive list of agencies list BUT it should be pointed out WHEN were these entities involved in the process?

list of agencies for Big Rigs on Hwy 12

But where are the US Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service? Clearwater River is designated critical habitat for anadromous salmonids under the Endangered Species Act and also contains bull trout, steelhead, Chinook salmon and Westslope cutthroat trout.

goldentrout, Salmon, Idaho

The Hidden Agenda in these Big Loads

What is really at hand is justifying Port Lewiston and the Snake River Dams, even with the Port offering the initial load for free, just to counter the Obama possibility of restoring anadromous salmonids to the Snake River Basin by the potential removal of the Snake River Dams.

They did not like it when Clinton had the dams in his sights, and like it no more with the Obama Administration. Truth is, a new high-speed rail line including freight would create new jobs and eliminate the need for the locks and Idaho's inland "port".

Goldentrout, Salmon, Idaho

Right on golden

Many good reasons for stopping this ridiculous scheme. Damage to roads, bridges, facilities, recreation, public saftey, W&S River, is the immediate harm but long-term commitment of the Snake and HW 12 for industrial purposes, at the expense of wild salmon (and lost economic value they represent), enabling the most destructive and counterproductive oil extraction (tar sands)is just as important.


Simple solution, don't have an attack when the loads are between you and the hospital (for those 59 minutes).

Give me a break.

Anyone who puts their opposition to the loads based on emergency access needs to evaluate emergency access and YELL for alternate routes. Instead of wasting their time on this temporary issue.

As mentioned already, if snow closes the road during winter,,, do they all die then?

It can't be real without SeNsuRRoUnD!!!!


"Say a prayer for the pretender..."-Jackson Browne