March 14, 2008 in Idaho

Boat dock bill dies in Senate panel

Betsy Z. Russell Staff writer

BOISE – Legislation to guarantee some Lake Coeur d’Alene property owners the right to put in a boat dock – though their property was separated from the lake by a public road in 1953 – died in an Idaho Senate committee Thursday by one vote.

“I knew it would be close,” said Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, lead sponsor of HB565. “I’m greatly disappointed that five of those senators don’t support personal property rights – they support big government over personal property rights.”

However, Nonini said later that he had talked with Idaho Transportation Department officials and was optimistic that the situation will improve.

“I think there’s some good momentum,” Nonini said. “We maybe didn’t get a bill passed, but we maybe can resolve the issue without legislation.”

Members of the Senate Transportation Committee said they had great sympathy for the lakefront owners, but several said it’d be best to wait for a pending ruling in a court case on the matter before changing laws. Sen. Brad Little, R-Emmett, noted that the bill as written would apply not only around Lake Coeur d’Alene, but anywhere in the state where waterfront property on a river or lake has a public road across it.

During the earlier House debate, Rep. Leon Smith, R-Twin Falls, an attorney, said the bill was unconstitutional for “about three reasons.” It narrowly squeaked through the House, on a 37-32 vote.

Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Post Falls, favored the bill, as did Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint.

“What we see is that people have had waterfront property, and by the efforts of the transportation department, have had that property converted from waterfront property to a secondary view lot without any compensation,” Hammond said.

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