It looks like hydroplane racing on Lake Coeur d’Alene this summer has been sunk.
Kootenai County Sheriff Ben Wolfinger has denied the Diamond Cup a water event permit for the Labor Day races, citing a list of conditions organizers failed to meet by today’s deadline.
Race officials asked the sheriff to reconsider and give them a bit more time to secure other permits that will free up financing, but Wolfinger said his decision is final.
“I don’t plan on changing my mind. Not at all,” he said today.
Diamond Cup Unlimited has not secured other necessary permits, provided insurance coverage for the event, obtained contracts for professional services, or paid public entities for expenses from last year’s races – all criteria he asked to me met by July 1, the sheriff noted.
“We have to draw a line in the sand,” Wolfinger said. “We set this deadline a long time ago.”
John Magnuson, a Coeur d’Alene attorney representing the Diamond Cup, said he asked the sheriff to reconsider and give organizers another month to fulfill the conditions. Other required permits from the state and county are pending and could be issued by July 10, and race financing is contingent on those permits, Magnuson said.
“I know the sheriff is a black-and-white guy, but we operate in a gray administrative world, and we’re not the ones that have colored it that way,” he said.
Without a water event permit, the races will not be allowed to take place Aug. 29-31 south of Silver Beach along Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive. The Diamond Cup group has been selling tickets for the event through TicketsWest.
The Diamond Cup revived the event last summer, but the races lost money and organizers still owe some creditors thousands of dollars. Miller has not publicly disclosed how much remains to be paid on last year’s bills, but he said earlier this year everyone would be paid by September.
The debts included $22,546 to Kootenai County Fire & Rescue for fire and medical services in 2013. Magnuson said the Diamond Cup has race financing in place to pay that bill and “make adequate provision for next year,” but the financing is contingent on securing permits for this year’s races.
“Essentially you pull the chair out from under somebody through no fault of their own by saying they failed to satisfy conditions that are factually and legally impossible to satisfy by July 1,” he said. “An artificially created timeline is simply not achievable given the applicant doesn’t control” the permit processes of other agencies.
That includes an application to the Idaho Department of Lands for a three-year permit to place concrete anchors and polyester lines in the lake for the race course and spectator boat tie-up area. The agency held a hearing on that request June 10 and will issue its decision by July 11.
In addition, the Diamond Cup is waiting for a decision from the county Board of Commissioners on a new process for allowing special events in a suburban agriculture zone, which applies to the race’s onshore areas along East Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive. The county Planning Commission voted 3 to 1 last week to recommend approval of that change, and the Board of County Commissioners is scheduled to hear it July 10.
“The deadlines need to realistically reflect factors and circumstances that are outside the control of the applicant and rest with those approving agencies,” Magnuson said.
Wolfinger said he agreed April 21 to give the Diamond Cup until Aug. 1 to secure the Department of Lands permit.
“And at that time they assured us that they would have all the rest of this stuff done,” by July 1, he said. “And obviously it didn’t get done.”
Sheriff’s office expenses, including staff overtime, are not compensated by public events like the hydro races because the county does not require it. Other public entities do have reimbursement mechanisms.
Wolfinger said he has to give his staff time to plan for the three-day event and set work schedules with plenty of notice. That’s part of the reason for the July 1 permit deadline.
The races were a popular attraction on the lake in the 1950s and ’60s, although underage drinking, fights, rioting and arrests marred the races from 1961 to 1964. Ultimately, waning enthusiasm and financial losses ended the run, with the final race held in 1968.
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