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Idaho state police warns of ‘threats’ to megaloads

BOISE – The Idaho State Police believes there may be an attempt to disrupt megaload shipments on U.S. Highway 12 in north-central Idaho, an ISP official told a state hearing officer Friday.

ISP Capt. Lonnie Richardson said the police agency has received information about “people who may want to interfere with the loads.”

Richardson declined to provide more information, saying the intelligence was “confidential information.” He said, “There have been threats,” and said, “Everybody has got a different definition of terrorism.”

Margaret Ross, a spokeswoman for ExxonMobil, which is proposing the giant shipments, said, “I don’t have any information about that. … I hadn’t heard it before.”

Opponents of the giant loads, which would take up both lanes of the two-lane scenic highway between Lewiston and the Montana state line, scoffed at the reports and suggested the ISP was overreacting to local residents who tried to monitor the three megaload shipments that already have traveled through.

Karen “Borg” Hendrickson, a Highway 12 resident and one of the leading opponents of the loads, was listening in the audience as Richardson testified. “I was astonished,” she said. “All of the monitors are just ordinary north-central Idaho citizens. I mean, the assumption that anyone among us is a terrorist is just astonishing.”

Hendrickson said three to four dozen area residents have organized to monitor the loads, attempting to follow them on assigned segments. However, the traffic plan for the loads calls for following traffic to pass at designated points, so the monitors have had to double back.

Richardson said police escorts have taken license plate numbers and made inquiries only of people who repeatedly passed the loads.

Vickie Garcia, one of the monitors who testified on Thursday, said state troopers told her she couldn’t travel back and forth more than one time while the megaloads were en route, and she questioned such restrictions on area citizens.

“I have it on video,” Garcia said.

Richardson was called to testify in the contested-case hearing over the Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil loads – the company has proposed more than 200 of the giant loads over the next year and a half – by attorneys for megaloads opponents, who had questions about state police escorts for the big loads.

He testified that the ISP will provide one to four on-duty officers per load to escort the shipments across Highway 12.

Mammoet Transportation, the hauling firm for Imperial/Exxon, is paying for the officers’ overtime; it pays the ISP, and the ISP pays the officers.

There are 17 ISP trooper positions in the five-county region in north-central Idaho; two of those are currently vacant and a third officer is deployed to Iraq on military service.

Earlier in the hearing, which ran all week and will continue Monday, there was testimony that three loads could be on the highway at one time as Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil moves equipment from Lewiston to the Alberta oil sands project in Canada, but Richardson said he thought there’d only be one at a time.

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