Lee County officials worried about law opening door for other industries to do the same
BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
LEE COUNTY – Gov. Kim Reynolds signed legislation Monday that will allow forestry haulers to exceed weight limits on state and county roads when hauling logs and other forestry products.
Counties and their respective engineers have opposed Senate File 629 in many different forms as it exceeds bridge weight limits and could pose safety risks and cause extended financial burdens on county budgets.
Lee County Engineer Ben Hull said he hadn’t heard the bill had been signed by the governor, but said he was disappointed in the new law.
“I guess I would say I’m disappointed but this is an improvement over previous versions. Our lobbying made a difference in that the bill she signed has a provision in it for statewide permitting that will at least allow for a check of the safety of local bridges,” Hull said Monday.
“But it’s very vague in how it will work. I think it requires them to consult with us, but doesn’t give us any say in how it will be implemented.”
Hull said that language focuses solely on the bridges, but he said the bill will take a heavy toll on county and state roads throughout the state.
“This is another unfunded mandate in that our infrastructure has to now support heavier loads with no compensation to shore up our roads and bridges.”
Hull said the bill was a special interest bill for the logging industry, but he said next year he wouldn’t be surprised if other industries, such as construction, see the state classifying loads of logs as “indivisible” and request their own weight limit extensions.
“Next year all these other industries would be looking for similar allowances,” Hull said.
Lee County Supervisor Chair Gary Folluo said he doesn’t see a lot of forestry and logging trucks on county roads, but he’s more concerned of the opening of the restrictions, as Hull had eluded to.
“I think it’s a shoe horn into other areas,” Folluo said. “How do they deny that, if they already done this. Once you approve it for one person, they’re all going to come to the table. This poses a serious problem for county infrastructure.”
Hull also the bill also will hit some counties in the pocket book as the fee structure changes from a $400 annual county permit to a $175 statewide permit.
“It’s taking money away from us in the same swoop,” he said.
“If a logging truck wanted to get a permit from us for an annual overweight permit we would get $400 annually. This reduces that to $175 for a statewide permit. They said the counties will get some cut of that, but are they going to divide it among all 99 counties? We used to get $400 for that and now we’ll get some fraction of a $175.
The bill allows the forestry industry to exceed the limit because the state reclassified their loads at indivisible, or they can’t be broken down, so they are granted heavier weight allowances.