Idaho


Eye on Boise: Deadline’s today to remove studded tires

BOISE – It may seem like it’s been awfully wintry lately, but the Idaho Transportation Department is sticking to the calendar – studded snow tires must be removed in Idaho by today.

Violations can bring a fine of $62. Idaho allows studded tires from Oct. 1 through April 30 each year, and unlike Oregon and Washington, which both extended their deadlines because of the lingering winter driving conditions, Idaho’s keeping to its plan.

Utah allows studded tires through March 31; Nevada through April 30; and Montana through May 31. Wyoming? They’re legal there all year round.

Test megaload still stuck

The “test validation module” for 200-plus Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil Highway 12 megaloads will stay where it is – in a chain-up area at milepost 169.1, about five miles west of the Montana state line on Highway 12 – until at least Monday night. The reason, the ITD has announced, is “potential inclement weather.” Weather permitting, it’ll head into Montana Monday night or early Tuesday morning, the transportation department said.

The test load, which is designed to match the tallest, widest and longest of the proposed loads, stalled for two weeks after its first night of travel, after clipping a guy wire and knocking out power to two Idaho towns.

Skiing in mid-May?

With the wintry conditions, Brundage Mountain near McCall has been getting snow on and off for the past week and has announced it’ll extend its “bonus” late-season weekend openings through May 15 – and maybe even further, if conditions warrant.

“We have an extremely healthy snow base, and it actually continues to get deeper,” said resort spokeswoman April Russell. “We’ve watched over 10 feet of snow fall in March and April and we’ve seen very little spring melt-off this year. We continue to get fresh snow every week and conditions have been stellar for our first two Bonus Weekends.”

The McCall ski resort has 94 inches of snow at its base and 133 inches at the summit. The extension of skiing to May 15 would be a record; Brundage, which is marking its 50th season this year, had its latest closing ever in 2008 on May 10.

‘Prevented legal mayhem’

House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, a pediatrician, praises GOP Gov. Butch Otter’s veto of HB 298, the final version of the health care reform nullification bill, saying, “Gov. Otter prevented legal mayhem – for that he is to be thanked.” Rusche has concerns, however, about the executive order Otter signed the same day he vetoed the bill, echoing many of the bill’s provisions but allowing waivers with his personal sign-off.

Rusche is calling on Otter to make sure Idaho can benefit from provisions of the law including protections from arbitrary coverage reductions or denials, tax credits for small businesses for covering their employees, assurance that premium dollars go primarily to paying for care and not to insurance profits, and “high risk” coverage for pre-existing conditions.

Could’ve pushed …

When Idaho congressman Mike Simpson joined Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Bureau of Land Management Director Robert Abbey for a tour of the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise last week, they rode along with smokejumpers on a training flight.

Simpson joked afterward that as the smokejumpers parachuted out, “I was afraid the secretary might push me out after seeing the budget.”

Salazar said he’s concerned about the future of wildland firefighting efforts with the nation’s budget crunch, and noted that he’s called the threat of increasingly destructive Western wildfires “the looming Katrina of the West.”

This spring, however, heavy moisture in the northern United States has dampened fire danger, though a busy fire season already has kicked off in the Southwest.

Simpson said, “Because the last couple of years haven’t been as dramatic a fire cost as in the past, we had some resources built up there that we thought we could reduce the funding, which we did in this budget, and still leave enough in there to fight the fires that we anticipate.” But, he said, “You never know what could happen. You could have a catastrophic fire that comes through here that you’re going to need emergency appropriation for also.”

Said Abbey, “Whatever this season may bring, we’ll be prepared.”

Staff writer Betsy Z. Russell can be reached at betsyr@spokesman.com or (208) 336-2854.


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