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Tuesday, July 16, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  Idaho Voices

Otter puts in his oar on changing dock rules

BOISE – If it were up to Gov. Butch Otter, owners of boat docks on state-owned lakes would be free to put up solid wooden boat covers, complete with roofs, posts and multiple pilings.

Otter has twice opposed new boat dock rules that have been through extended public hearings and negotiated rule-making; both times, he’s been outvoted on the state Land Board, 3-2, and the rules survived.

Last week, when the negotiated rules came to the Land Board for final approval before going before lawmakers, Otter said he had two objections: One, he’d like to see a fee schedule that makes sure the state covers its costs for processing and issuing dock permits; and two, he’d like to allow wooden structures.

The problem: The new rules didn’t ban solid-wood boathouses on docks; they were already banned. The rules made other, more minor changes. During the public hearings, one member of the public asked that the requirement that boat dock covers be of just tubular construction, to hold up temporary, seasonal canopies, be eliminated.

Said Otter, “I don’t see a lot of aluminum poles growing out in nature.” He said he thought wooden structures were more aesthetically pleasing than tubular structures supporting canopies.

“The tubular requirement is not in these rules,” Secretary of State Ben Ysursa told Otter. “I’m having trouble seeing the relevance of this discussion.”

State lands staffer Eric Jensen said the state’s rules require “very clear and standard marine construction,” and state Lands Department Director George Bacon noted that the state owns the lakes, and adjacent landowners have the right to “wharf out” with docks but not actually to build big structures out over the lakes.

Said state Controller Donna Jones, “I don’t see the aesthetics – I see the saving of the lake, basically. When you put those pilings in, it makes a lot of damage.” She recalled the damage at Bayview when a developer drove pilings through fish-spawning grounds and destroyed them.

Jensen said four pilings are allowed to support a single-family dock, under state rules. A solid-wood structure with columns and a roof requires more pilings driven into the lake bed; that’s not permitted.

Otter said, “I would challenge a generalized statement that pilings automatically damage the lake bed. That’s why we have permitting.”

The new rules actually don’t set new fees; they remove fee amounts from the rules to give state regulators more flexibility to adjust fees to cover their costs. The goal, Bacon said, is for fees to fully cover costs, as the governor advocated.

Ysursa, Jones, and Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden voted in favor of the rules; state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna joined Otter in opposing them. As they did at an earlier stage, the rules cleared the Land Board on the same 3-2 vote.

Labor: Beware fee sites

Idaho’s Department of Labor is warning against a private company that’s soliciting out-of-work Idahoans to pay it $9.95 to file their claims for unemployment benefits. Actually, unemployed workers can file such claims themselves for free, either at a local unemployment office, by phone or online.

“People need to steer clear of Web sites that appear to offer legitimate applications for unemployment insurance benefits when, in fact, they do not,” said Josh McKenna, benefits bureau chief for the department. “Using an unofficial site will not only cost money that doesn’t need to be spent but could also delay benefits.”

The department’s official Web site is the place to go instead – http://labor.idaho.gov – McKenna said, along with its “Idaho Works” online benefits application site.

Vonage settles case

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden says Idahoans who had trouble canceling their Vonage Voice Over Internet Protocol service may be eligible for refunds as part of a new multistate legal settlement. Consumers with unresolved complaints dating back to January 2004 may be eligible; they must file written complaints with the attorney general’s office by March 16. More information is available at (800) 432-3545.

Wasden said the company had been paying incentives to customer service representatives to convince customers not to cancel their accounts, and customers reported pressure that made it difficult to cancel.

“When a contract allows a consumer to cancel within a certain time period, consumers have a right and are entitled to exercise that right without undue obstacles thrown up by the other contracting party,” Wasden said. “Consumers who were hurt will be able to obtain redress and the problems we saw ought not continue in the future.” As part of the $3 million multistate settlement, the company agreed to reform its marketing practices.

Betsy Z. Russell can be reached toll-free at (866) 336-2854 or at bzrussell@gmail.com.

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