Kootenai County Sheriff Rocky Watson’s plans for a new home for his marine fleet are still adrift after a year of searching.
“Now we’re down to the best of the bad spots,” Watson said Friday. “The two spots we’re looking at both have faults.”
Watson would prefer to move Kootenai County’s two boathouses to the Third Street dock, but the biggest hurdle now to that plan is opposition from the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission.
The boathouses now are at the Marina Yacht Club on Blackwell Island, which was purchased by businessman Duane Hagadone in January 2004. Hagadone plans to upgrade the marina and add more boat slips.
While Hagadone is not evicting the county boathouses – which hold four sheriff’s marine boats, a county Parks and Waterways boat, a county fire boat and personal watercraft used by deputies – Watson said the county needs to move.
Hagadone “is being very cooperative, but I don’t want to pursue that,” Watson said. “Hagadone wants his marina uniform, with boat covers, and we need boathouses. When we’re responding to a life-threatening situation, we can’t take the time to untarp a boat or find out a kid has set off the fire extinguishers.”
The sheriff’s use of the boat slips doesn’t mix well with commercial uses, he added. For instance, “there are times when we need privacy, like when we’re removing a body from the lake,” he said.
Watson is adamant that the sheriff’s boats need to be on the north end of the lake, where most of the boating activity is. The problem is, there’s not a lot of waterfront – public or private – available for boathouses there.
Watson and Kurtis Robinson, director of the county parks and waterways department, have looked at Boothes Landing, Silver Beach, Harbor Center, the Bureau of Land Management pump house site, North Idaho Maritime, private waterfront in Cougar Bay, North Idaho College’s beach and Third Street boat dock between Tubbs Hill and the Coeur d’Alene Resort.
Third Street and NIC are the two top choices, with Third Street having the best access, parking and water depth, they said.
Because of low water conditions at the NIC beach, either the dock to serve the boathouses would have to be very long or the boathouses would need to be moved in the winter when the lake is drawn down, they said.
“We need deep water access year round,” Robinson said.
Robinson met with Doug Eastwood, Coeur d’Alene’s parks director, and showed him some plans for new dock configurations for Third Street that would maintain public moorage and make room for the boathouses
Eastwood presented the idea to the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission on Aug. 8, and, according to minutes from the meeting, the commission “was not receptive to this idea” and “did not feel that a meeting with the County is necessary at this time.”
The commission suggested the Harbor Center, a city-owned building on the Spokane River waterfront, but that location had been rejected by the county because of low water conditions, making passage in and out of the river hazardous at times.
Also opposed to the Third Street dock location are the Tubbs Hill Foundation and the city’s open space ad hoc committee.
“The Third Street marina area on the north shore of Lake Coeur d’Alene is very pristine, very pretty and it’s also right up against Tubbs Hill,” Eastwood said. “Anything that could impact, block or distort the view of Tubbs Hill is going to raise a lot of concern in public.”
County officials admit that the sheriff’s boathouse isn’t pretty, but it’s due to be replaced, and the new version could be built to make it more compatible with the neighborhood, they said.
The two boathouses are relatively large, which also could make a visual impact off NIC’s beach, said Rolly Jurgens, NIC’s vice president for administrative services.
Jurgens said the college is willing to work with the county to provide the moorage off its waterfront, but some members of the Fort Ground neighborhood around the college are opposed.
“Third Street would be the most obvious place, from my point of view,” Jurgens said.
Eastwood also suggested the 11th Street marina, where the city has a contract to use 100 feet of dock for emergency use. Watson said he was unaware of that option and it was unclear Friday whether that contract would allow permanent moorage of two large boathouses.
While Watson said he’s met with three City Council members who support the Third Street location, Councilman Ron Edinger isn’t one of them.
“I don’t think it’s a good location,” Edinger said. “It wouldn’t be very sightly.”
Another concern is that downtown traffic might impede emergency vehicles, but Watson said that’s a problem at just about every location. Lack of parking and access off the dike road around NIC, which is busy in the summer, is a major drawback to the NIC site, he said.
Watson said the county needs to find a location soon so it can apply for grant money to pay for construction or renovation.
“This is a public safety issue,” he said.
Mayor Sandi Bloem said the city has not dry-docked the sheriff’s proposal.
“The county has a need, and the city will certainly be a partner to help solve the problem, but that doesn’t mean that Third Street is the solution or not,” she said. “It has not gone through any process.”