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Megaloads hearing opens…

The contested case hearing on the proposed 200-plus megaload shipments of oil equipment across U.S. Highway 12 in north-central Idaho has opened at the ITD headquarters this morning, with retired Judge Duff McKee, second from left, presiding as hearing examiner. The first witness is Ruth May, at right, who owns and operates the Reflections Inn, a bed-and-breakfast inn, on Highway 12 11 miles east of Kooskia. May said her inn offers “a quiet getaway on the scenic river.”

May said, “We have no way in or out except Highway 12.” Sometimes, guests have had medical emergencies and had to leave in the middle of the night, she said; the same has been true in her own family. When one young woman guest was suffering a stroke, May said she told the woman's husband to “put her in the car and drive to Orofino immediately” while she called the hospital there. “It takes 45 minutes just for an ambulance to get up there,” May said.

When one of the attorneys for ITD objected to mention of the scenic byway, saying the highway's designation as a scenic byway is irrelevant to the permit issue, McKee overruled the objection. May then testified that the wild and scenic river corridor and scenic byway designation - which she said prevents her from so much as cutting a tree or painting a building a different color without getting a permit - are key to the success of her business. Attorney Natalie Havlina then displayed a photo May took last Friday of extensive tree-trimming being done right across from May's inn; it's being done to accommodate the ExxonMobil test module. May said the trimming, which the photo shows removing all the lower branches of a tall tree, is unsightly and wouldn't have been permitted by the Forest Service had she requested to do it in the scenic corridor; you can see a photo here. May said when the ConocoPhillips megaloads went by her inn, traffic was held up for 45 minutes to an hour.


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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