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Eye On Boise

Of facts, rhymes, and megaloads…

When the Senate debated HB 193a yesterday, the bill to allow courts to require big cash bonds before a lawsuit could be filed against a megaload or other transportation project on Idaho roads, the Senate sponsor, John McGee, R-Caldwell, said in his closing debate that companies planning mega-huge hauls along U.S. Highway 12 in Idaho have spent big bucks on the road: "There's a $10 million investment made into the road in turnouts ... power lines ... Apparently now those turnouts are now being used by steelhead fishermen," he told the Senate.

However, Pius Rolheiser, spokesman for Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil, said his firm - which has done all the alterations to Highway 12 for megaload transport - only planned to spend about $2.2 million in Idaho, including $600,000 to grade and re-gravel nine existing turnouts, and $1.6 million to raise or lower power lines. (The company does plan to spend $10.6 million on the direct costs of its haul, from guide vehicles to highway patrol escorts, over the year-plus the giant loads would travel, but that's not for road work). ITD reports that the work on the nine existing turnouts, which it inspected, came to $480,000; no new turnouts were created. McGee said former Sen. Skip Brandt told him about fishermen using the turnouts.

McGee, who said he got the $10 million figure "straight from the Internet" and stands by it, said, "This is not a big deal." And perhaps it's not, but it's a bit ironic that when the same bill was debated in the House earlier, the sponsor there, Rep. Dick Harwood, R-St. Maries, offered the following whoppers in his debate: He said the companies shipping megaloads will post a $250 million bond to cover damage; the bond is actually $10 million. He said the giant loads are only permitted to travel from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m.; actually, it's 10 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. And Harwood talked about “how much the company has done for the state of Idaho - we have gained a lot. We've got a blacktop road and lots of turnouts. They've done a lot for the road.” Actually, though ExxonMobil paid to improve nine turnouts along Highway 12 by graveling and leveling them, it did not pave the route or add any new turnouts; the highway has been paved since 1962.

McGee disputed that there's any irony here. "I think the word is coincidence," he said. So, in that spirit, here's a little rhyme I call "HB 193a":

Fishing for whoppers?
You'll find your fill
When Idaho lawmakers
Debate this one bill.

Benefits grow,
While obstacles shrink,
History does flip-flops
And numbers just kink.

But as for a lawsuit
On a big megaload
Don't give us no facts
Just 'git down the road.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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