Over the past few weeks, nearly everyone in western Montana—except maybe those with a different ax to grind—has weighed in on Imperial Oil's proposed Kearl Module Transportation Project (KMTP). Some condemn the high-and-wide loads destined for Alberta's tar sands fields, others welcome them with open arms. Even we've panned the deal to some degree.
One voice we haven't heard too loudly, however, is that of Missoula County Board of Commissioners. Commissioners sent a letter May 12 to Tom Martin, head of the Montana Department of Transportation (MDOT)'s environmental services bureau, outlying the 10 concerns floating at the tops of their heads. Here are a few highlights:
"The environmental assessment lacks adequate analysis of alternate routes. There is very little information provided explaining why no other route is feasible."
"The document fails to portray the true economic impact to local businesses, tourism and employment. Especially lacking are the effects to the transportation and timber products industry that are so important to our economy."
"The Environmental Assessment fails to address impacts to the sewer main running directly under the approach to the weigh station that will stage the modules. The sewer main serves Highway 12 as part of Rural Special Improvement District No. 901. Large boulders in the vicinity restricted the sewer main from being installed at an adequate depth."
Buried deeper in the commissioners' minds were surely dozens more oversights to consider, says Chief Administrative Officer Dale Bickell. That's primarily what prompted the commission to request a 90-day extension on the comment period for MDOT's environmental assessment of the KMTP. The department didn't bite, and stopped taking public comment May 14. Bickell says the county has additional concerns yet to be addressed, such as the impacts on emergency services during the KMTP's hours of operation.
"It would be nice for us to have some more time to be able to flush out some of these other issues," Bickell says. "But the county will continue to work to make sure that this project, if it moves forward, is done appropriately and all our concerns get addressed...There's a lot of specific operational things that we're concerned about as well, whether they're appropriate in the EA or not."
According to Commissioner Bill Carey, the commission has issued no formal response to date concerning MDOT's denial of the extension request.