‘We’re not willing sellers’, say River’s End property owners

by Sue Forde, Editor
Citizen Review Online

Clallam County, WA – 8/20/02 – Mark Thomas, acting on behalf of the property owners at River’s End on the Dungeness River, appeared before county commissioners to let them know once again that the private property owners are not “willing sellers.”  The commissioners planned to accept bid proposals for environmental impact studies and appraisals toward the buyout of property there.

Mark Thomas, acting president of the Dungeness Beach Association, brought a letter to the Clallam County Commissioners, and said, “I come to talk about the grant money for proposed buyout of willing sellers at River’s End Road”. Only two commissioners were present; Mike Chapman was away at a meth lab conference.  Thomas explained that the annual meeting of the River’s End property owners was held recently, and the issue of a buyout was discussed thoroughly.  “There are no willing sellers, with the exception of Gil Lujan, who was caught in the middle of a red tag zone from the county, and if I were in his shoes, I would want the county to buy me out, too,” he said.

“My voice is for the people down there who are taxpayers,” Thomas continued. “We do not want to sell, period.  We want to be good stewards of our property.  We want to work with you folks.  So the grant money, which is no more than taxpayers’ dollars, can be used for something else.”  The letter confirmed what he had stated, and went on to say that no one would be allowed to enter the private property without specific permission and three days’ notice.

The statement comes after much contention between the property owners and county DCD [Department of Community Development] staff.  Thomas reported later that many of the property owners had met previously with county staff and DCD director Bob Martin, and told them they did not want to sell their properties. 

The owners spoke out again at a River’s End landowners meeting held by the county, and facilitated by Cathy Lear, Clallam County Department of Natural Resources.  Approximately 40 people attended that  meeting at the Old Dungeness Schoolhouse in Sequim on May 22, 2002, near the property location.

When Lear explained that the grant money they were getting was available to “improve fish habitat,” Thomas asked her to explain what that meant.  “What exactly does that mean, and exactly what do you plan on doing that we as property owners can’t already do?” he wanted to know.  She put him off, not answering the question. The issue was pursued later (see ‘Contentious’ river property owners unwilling to sell).

Martin and his staff have proceeded as if they did not hear what the property owners said, obtaining state grant money ( approx. $1.5 million) with the help of County Commissioner Steve Tharinger (D).  (Tharinger serves on the Governor Locke’s Salmon Recovery Board, and helped to obtain a grant from that entity toward buying out the River’s End property.)  According to State Representative Jim Buck, Tharinger said that the owners there are “willing sellers.”

There have been other misstatements by county staff, as well.  When asked, Cathy Lear told property owners that she didn’t plan on removing the dike.  Technically, “she” personally might not plan on removing it, but the grant clearly states the dike removal as one of the goals.  Presently, the Corps of Engineers dike protects the homes and property at River’s End; dike removal would create flooding and the ability of the county to “relocate people out of harm’s way.”[1]

The buyout of the river is important to the county because of a Dungeness River Management Team (DRMT) report about turning the area into an estuary.  The Phase I goal as stated in the grant application report is to “restore the ecological processes of the estuary and lower Dungeness River.”  The Phase I objective is to “purchase approximately 22 acres of property and associated improvements on the west bank of the river, remove approximately 3,400’ of dike and begin revegetation,” so the river can “meander”.

The problem the Team and the county face is that there are people who live in the area who don’t want to leave their homes.  Many of the people there have lived there for many years; several own property there for duck hunting.  They all own a portion of the tidelands.

Now that the owners of the property have stated in writing that they are not “willing sellers”, one wonders whether the county will back off the purchase plans, or proceed to relocate owners against their wishes – or “make” willing sellers of them.  As one River’s End owner stated at an earlier meeting, “I love my property; I would love to keep it.  If access is cut off, or power was cut off, I would want to be sure that if people sold around me, I would not be forced to sell.”

The early report by the DRMT subcommittee talked about dealing with “contentious” owners.  “Contentious” means “quarrelsome”, or “controversial.”  It’s a term that at least one county commissioner – Steve Tharinger - has used more than once, directed at private property owners.  The question of who has the right of ownership over the River’s End property is not over: a battle of private property ownership versus government ownership is one that is being fought all across the nation[2].

Stay tuned.  We’ll be following this story as it unfolds.

Read previous stories on this issue:

5/29/02 - River owners balk at selling out their property;  encouraged by county agencies with an agenda to become “willing” sellers

5/22/02 - ‘Contentious’ river property owners unwilling to sell,  but some feel they have no choice

5/11/02 - ‘Willing Sellers’ sought along Dungeness River – Agencies work to rid river of private ownership

[1] See U. S. Department of Energy promotes "sustainable development" in accordance with United Nations' scheme for more about “relocation” of private property owners. The Energy Dept. states at its website: “For some communities, the only solution is relocation, moving entirely off the floodplain, out of harm’s way.”

[2] Read “Rural America under Siege” – the story of Florida landowners faced with relocation.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, any copyrighted work in this message is distributed under fair use without profit or payment for non-profit research and educational purposes only. [Ref. http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml]


Back to Current Edition Citizen Review Archive LINKS Search This Site