In 2010, energy companies planned to send “megaloads” — shipments of oil refinery equipment about three times the size of a semi-truck — along Idaho’s Highway 12, a winding two-lane road that parallels two federally protected wild and scenic rivers through a national forest. In 2013, the Nez Perce Tribe and environmental groups sued the U.S. Forest Service to block the megaloads, prompting a federal judge to temporarily halt the deliveries. Megaload opponents worried that widening the road and allowing the shipments, headed for Alberta’s oil sands, would obstruct traffic, dump sediment into the rivers and turn the picturesque byway into an “industrial corridor” (“Monstertruck alley,” HCN, 8/16/10).
In late January, the Forest Service and the plaintiffs agreed on a settlement that effectively prohibits future megaloads. In a letter to the Idaho Transportation Department, the agency laid out size restrictions for oversized shipments on Highway 12 that allow for hauling things like logs and farm equipment, but prohibit the more massive megaloads.