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Sides rest in mega-loads hearing

by Jay Patrick
| December 11, 2010 8:00 PM

BOISE - Day two of the mega-loads hearing delivered hope to Highway 12 residents battling the state over planned shipments of road-blocking oil refinery equipment.

Idaho Transportation Department official Alan Frew's testimony Wednesday about "balancing" the needs of highway users struck hearing officer Merlyn Clark.

"I have some concerns about Mr. Frew's testimony about balancing, as opposed to primary concern for safety and convenience," said Clark, in refusing to make an immediate judgment against the opponents at the request of ConocoPhillips early Thursday afternoon.

But after both sides rested their cases later in the day, Clark said he had no idea what his decision will be. He asked lawyers to submit briefs by next Wednesday reiterating key arguments and defining key terms like "delay" and "necessity."

Clark said he didn't know when he would reach a decision on his recommendation. When he does, he will pass it along to ITD Director Brian Ness, who will have the final say on if the loads go through.

To win the case, ITD and Conoco must convince Clark that the state put public safety and public convenience at the forefront when considering transport plans and issuing permits to ship the loads from Lewiston to Montana. Also, they must show that it's necessary to use Highway 12.

For both days of the hearing in Boise, Highway 12 residents' lawyer Laird Lucas worked to show the plan is technically faulty and conceived to meet Conoco's needs at the expense of Highway 12 residents and businesses. Lucas argued the shipments could hold up residents trying to get to a hospital, as well as logging and shipping companies trying to efficiently move goods. The loads would mar the route's charm and hurt tourism by blocking views, he said.

"They can say it's transitory, but it's not transitory. It's (Highway 12) being branded on people's minds: Highway 12 is where they haul huge loads," Lucas said.

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