By John Craig The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Wash.
Date: Friday, February 5 2010
Feb. 5–Spokane County commissioners got a crash course Thursday in ranching, international trade and the difficulty of weighing a cattle truck.
A delegation of area cattlemen and Otis Orchards residents asked commissioners to crack down on Canadian cattle trucks that bypass the Washington port of entry at Stateline, Idaho.
Valleyford cattleman Will Wolf said some 9,000 Canadian trucks a year take an out-of-the-way route through Idaho into Washington on Trent Avenue instead of Interstate 90.
The only logical reason for that is to avoid being weighed and inspected, said Wolf and about a half-dozen other members of the Spokane County Cattlemen and the Cattle Producers of Washington.
The ranchers complained that less-regulated Canadian cattle threaten their industry with tuberculosis and other diseases, as well as economic competition. The first U.S. case of mad cow disease was imported from Canada — through Spokane County, they said.
Consistently overloaded trucks damage local roads, they added.
Sheriff’s Cpl. Bob Sola, one of two Spokane County commercial vehicle deputies, said trying to weigh cattle trucks with portable scales is difficult and unpleasant.
Cattle answer the call of nature no matter who or what is under their truck. Even if officers escape personal indignity, they have to cart around smelly scales in the backs of their SUVs for the rest of the day.
Otis Orchards community activist Cindy Marshall thought a new port of entry on Trent Avenue might help.
Sola said sheriff’s officials are thinking about seeking donated land for an inspection pullout. They’re also working on a grant to beef up enforcement.
Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said the issue is a priority for him because he hears about Canadian cattle trucks every time he attends an event in Otis Orchards.
“I hear more about those trucks than I do about sex offenders or speeding,” Knezovich said.
Commissioners Bonnie Mager and Todd Mielke said commissioners are planning a public hearing to consider barring heavy trucks from Harvard Road — which is one of several arterials the truckers use to reach the freeway.
Harvard Road is the only cattle-truck route even partially controlled by the county, and part of Harvard is in Liberty Lake.
The ranchers plan to ask Liberty Lake, Spokane Valley and Washington state to take similar action. Trent Avenue and Pines Road are state highways.
Perhaps the biggest need identified in Thursday’s meeting is a state law requiring out-of-state trucks to go to the port of entry.
Sola said trucks are free to take back roads around a weigh station. Even if they drive right past a port of entry, the only penalty is a $124 fine for violating a traffic sign, he said.
Marshall and the ranchers have contacted several state legislators about that.