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Clallam seeks buyer for Rivers End lots - County can’t simply give away bottom lands 

By Jim Casey
Peninsula Daily News

Peninsula Daily News   January, 10, 2007     Dungeness---Wish as it may, Clallam County can’t give away the lots it bought at Rivers End---not even to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

It’s not that the state doesn’t want them.

It’s the law that prohibits county commissioners from relinquishing the lots for less than fair market value.

Clallam County, the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe and the state are in the last year of a five-year effort to purchase properties from willing buyers on Rivers End Road in the Dungeness estuary.

The buyers then move or demolish the houses and then cap their septic tanks.

Funds totaling nearly $2.7 million for the project have flowed from the state Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The long-range plan is to let a nearby levee erode, allowing the Dungeness to recreate its natural flood plain and restore salmon habitat.

The county own 10 lots at Rivers End.

The Jamestown S’Klallam own two parcels that they intend to keep and the wildlife department own a 40-acre hayfield in the crook of Rivers End Road.

Owners face flooding

Between five and eight property owners have declined so far to sell.

They face inevitable flooding when the levee fails.

“They’re kind of hunting cabins on stilts,” said Clallam County Commissioner Steve Tharinger, D-Dungeness, who’s First District includes Rivers End.

“What’s been made clear to the people down there is that there’s no intention to retain that dike, which is minimal anyway.

“And the county won’t be involved in maintaining Rivers End Road.”

That will leave the county owning about eight acres that often will be under water---land it doesn’t want.

Tharinger said the county should transfer the land to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, that thanks to buying the hayfield, is the largest property owner at Rivers End.

The agency meanwhile has been waiting for Clallam County to relinquish the lots and adjacent beach.

County Administrator Jim Jones, however, nixed the idea.

“If we own it, we can’t just give it away,” Jones said.

“We can enter property management agreements all we want, but we can’t just kick away property.”

“Anything that is publicly owned, you have to figure out a way to get public benefit from it.”
Doherty: Poll parks board

Randy Johnson of the state Fish and Wildlife Department said he didn’t forsee “any particularly big hurdles” to accepting the property but wasn’t sure if the state would buy it.
---even at a price that’s been severely reduced by the impending levee failure.

However, the department would be interested in providing access to the estuary for anglers, duck hunters, and bird watchers, he said.

Commissioner Mike Doherty, D-Port Angeles, suggested that the county poll members of its own Park and Recreation Board and contact the Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society to explore their interests.

For the time being, county Department of Community Development officials will meet with the Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Mark Nichols to review options for selling the property.

“I think there’s a lot of discussion that has to be done,” said Tharinger.


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