Supporters of the Lochsa and Clearwater rivers gathered at the Idaho Transportation Department offices in Boise on Friday, Dec. 10 and delivered a wheelbarrow full of peanuts representing the thousands of people organizers said have not been heard by the agency considering whether or not to permit the transport of hundreds of building-sized megaloads by ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil on U.S. Highway 12.
“The thousands of peanuts in this sack are meant to represent the thousands of Idahoans opposing the oil company requests to take over the Highway 12 corridor in order to maximize their profits without concern for the people or the natural and recreational resources their loads would adversely impact,” said Idaho Rivers United Executive Director Bill Sedivy.
At a contested case hearing at the Grove Hotel on Wednesday, Dec. 8, ITD Motor Vehicles Chief Alan Frew referred to Idahoans who might protest the highly controversial, highway-clogging megaloads as “nuts.”
Since June, more than 3,000 people signed petitions and nearly 800 submitted thoughtful written comments to ITD in protest of the proposed megaloads.
“These people are local residents and small business owners who have legitimate concerns about the impact of these shipments on their ability to get to work, obtain medical care and draw tourism traffic into their shops,” Sedivy said. “They are hunters and fishermen, campers, hikers, bird-watchers and whitewater boaters who know that they will lose access to their favorite fishing holes, trailheads and boat launches if you allow Conoco and ExxonMobil to close pullouts and parking areas prior to the movement of loads.”
One such person is Boise resident Lynn Richardson, who has earned a living on the Lochsa River for more than a decade. He has worked as a raft guide and fishing guide, but for the last two years he has managed a small whitewater photography business, using highway pulloffs to take pictures of boaters on the Lochsa River’s world-class rapids.
“I’m here today because I’m worried that the Highway 12 megaloads will block my access to the river,” Richardson said. “I’m especially worried about the hundreds of ExxonMobil loads that will travel the highway year round.”
Richardson’s concern is both for his ability to earn a living by pulling over to take photographs of thrill-seeking whitewater rafters and for his ability to access his favorite fishing holes. It is both his living and his passion.
Whitewater legend Rob Lesser, too, is worried about the potential impacts to the Lochsa River. He has been traveling to the Lochsa since 1970 and said the river’s rare combination of pristine setting and challenging big-water rapids is second to none. And access, agreed both Lesser and Richardson, is an important public issue.
“Those pullouts are fisherman access,” Richardson said. “If ITD can hear me today, I’m here to say that the fishing and boating public is not served well by this proposal.”