April 24, 1996 in Nation/World

Ruling Muddies Dredging Project But Group That Wants To Remove Silt From Bay Will Push Forward

By The Spokesman-Review
 

For years, Sue Fall fought with neighbors who wanted to dredge out land under Kidd Island Bay - land she insisted was hers.

A court ruling last week reinforces Fall’s ownership of the land and could effectively kill a multimillion-dollar plan to dredge the bay for better fishing, swimming and boating.

Friday, District Judge Craig Kosonen settled a century-old dispute by claiming state ownership of the lake ends at elevation 2,121 feet - seven feet lower than the state had claimed.

Under that ruling, most if not all the land under water in the 43-acre bay is privately owned.

That means folks pushing to dig the bay deeper may have to get approval from landowners who don’t want the work done. Landowners like Fall, who owns 28.8 acres of submerged land.

“No way,” Fall said Tuesday. “I’m not giving my permission. I’m opposed on principle at this point.”

Proponents argue that the ruling means they can now hold landowners responsible for filling the shallow bay with silt in the first place.

“If you own land on a hillside and it slides off into your neighbors pool, it’d be your responsibility, right?” asked Fred Miller, leader of homeowners group spear-heading the dredging plan.

Miller said his group intends to push ahead in planning the dredging. “We need to complete what we started.”

But even the group’s supporters acknowledge the future looks bleak.

“The effect of that decision, of course, is to put this whole thing in doubt,” said Scott Reed, an attorney representing Miller’s group. “It puts a legal cloud on the process.”

Miller and company began a campaign in 1984 to remove several feet of silt from the bay. They formed a local improvement district, which would make the 127 landowners there cover the costs of the project, which in turn would add value to their land.

Early cost estimates ranged from $1.8 million to $3.2 million.

Two years ago the group began the first phase, spending $290,000 for engineering work and getting permits from several state and federal agencies. That phase should be finished in early summer. Miller’s group must then put the project to a vote of area residents.

But last year, a group headed by resident Don Gray began circulating a petition to kill the project. As many as 54 residents said they could not stomach the potential costs - ranging from $2,000 to $28,000 per household.

Since the project involved work on public land, all opponents could do was ask county commissioners to halt the LID. Commissioners refused.

Now, however - because of last week’s court ruling - the dredging would occur on land actually owned by those residents. Miller expects the decision to be appealed and is not giving up.

“If they don’t want it, they can vote that way at the proper time,” he said.

In the meantime, however, the rift in this lake shore community remains.

Miller points to dozens of “For Sale” listings near the bay as proof that the bay is so shallow and murky that no one wants to buy there.

Gray contends the signs are proof that homeowners are moving away because they can no longer stand the threat of being forced to pay thousands of dollars to clean it up.

But Fall, at least, contends the court ruling means the controversy is nearing a close.

“Yes, there’s an end in sight,” she said. “It’s not here yet, but it’s coming.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Map of area


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