The Forest Service has settled a lawsuit with a conservation group and an Idaho Indian tribe that will allow oversized truck loads to resume using a two-lane federal highway through an environmentally-sensitive section of the Idaho Panhandle. But the settlement essentially bans so-called megaloads of oil equipment destined for the oil sands in Alberta.
In 2013, the Nez Perce Tribe and Idaho Rivers United sued the Forest Service to stop the megaloads from using the two-lane U.S. Highway 12 through national forestland between Lewiston, Idaho and the Montana border. The shipments of oil equipment bound for Canada were seen as dangerous to the corridor where the Lochsa and Clearwater Rivers run.
The transportation companies moving the equipment want to use the highway because it’s the shortest distance between Lewiston, where the equipment is barged from the Pacific Ocean, and the Alberta oil sands.
The Forest Service claimed it didn’t have the authority to close the highway to the big trucks, but the lawsuit had that effect. There hasn’t been a huge rig to pass through since the lawsuit was filed.