‘Contentious’ river property
owners unwilling to sell,
Sue Forde, Citizen Review Online
“Some work will require substantial funding, permits, property acquisition, easements or other types of agreement with willing landowners, some of which could be considered contentious.” – page 4 of “Recommended Restoration Projects for the Dungeness River”, dated /-1/97
were the posted “ground rules” at the meeting called by Clallam
County agencies on May 22, 2002, to explain terms and conditions of a
proposed buyout of private property on River’s End, at the lower
portion of the Dungeness River. Andy
Brastad, director of Clallam County Natural Resources Department, opened
the meeting saying that he recognized that “we all have different
‘feelings’”, and that he wanted to make sure everyone “feels”
comfortable, like they’re in a “safe environment.”
mentioned Kinkade Island (located upriver where flooding had occurred,
and owners are faced with a potential buyout of their property as well),
and told the crowd that “this
isn’t about Kinkade Island, you are coming to the wrong meeting...we
are not going to talk about that---what we are going to talk about today
is the lower end of the river, also known as Rivers End Road. We are
really here to talk mainly to property owners and to renters who are
living along the river.” The
purpose for the meeting, he said, “really,” is to “talk about the
county’s [buyout] program” and land acquisition.
of you are in a floodway, Brastad said, and the county can’t issue
permits because of that. “Along
with that, and equally as important, is that we have three listed fish
under the Endangered Species Act (ESA)…and a lot of the money under
the SRF Board (State of Washington Governor’s Salmon Recovery Funding
Board) is that we can restore the river to its natural floodplain, that
will increase the survival of chum…”
landowner questioned “Bull trout?
In the Dungeness?” Yes,
responded Brastad, adding that there will be time for questions after
stage of restoration projects begun in 1997
began in 1997 with the Dungeness River Management Team’s (DRMT)
“Recommended Restoration Projects for the Dungeness River” report of
July 1, 1997. In that
report, “the lower 10.8 miles of the river (most of which is privately
owned), are the primary focus of restoration…virtually all of the bank
hardenings, diking, water withdrawals, gravel mining, bed aggradation,
floodplain development…has occurred in the lower river.”
Human activities are blamed for the problem, including “diking,
bridge and road constrictions” among other reasons.
Bridges and dikes, of which there are several along the Dungeness
River, are pointed to as a primary problem for fish habitat.
raised by landowners
representing the Clallam County Department of Natural Resources and
former board member of the North Olympic Land Trust (NOLT), then took
over the presentation. She
handed out brochures and Letters of Intent for signature – one for
Conservation Easements; the other for Fee-Simple Purchases. She stressed
that these are for “willing” landowners to consider.
is a “draft”, Lear clarified. “We
realize there are things that need to be changed,” she said, pointing
out that the word “endangered” should read “threatened”
referencing the various types of fish mentioned in the brochure.
explained that they wanted to take advantage of the money available to
“improve fish habitat.” Mark
Thomas, president of the River’s End homeowner’s association, asked
Lear to explain what was meant by “enhancing fish habitat”.
“What exactly does that mean, and exactly what do you plan on
doing that we as property owners can’t already do?”
responded, “I’d like to save that question until after the
Lear said she
wanted to take everyone through the brochure with a power point (slide
show) presentation, “because some people are interested in...” she
went on, trying to defuse Thomas’ query.
He pressed on, saying that the landowners had better things to do
than sit through a presentation of the brochure they already had.
just grab the bull by the horns, and get right to the issue, instead of
beating around bush on this whole thing,” Thomas pursued, “and get a
show of hands from who are “willing sellers.
I think all of us have better time to be spent than coming down
here on a wild goose chase.” Lear
attempted to cut him off, but he persisted. “Why don’t we see a show
of hands for willing sellers right now?” he said.
“Well, I’d like to go through this information first, and
other experience has shown me that not everyone who is ‘willing’ is
willing to say so in public” Lear responded. “It’s a rather
be a willing seller?
should you be a willing seller,” Lear continued with her presentation.
“We would like you to know what your options are.”
There are one of two ways, she said – either an outright
purchase or a conservation easement.
conservation easements first, saying it’s an agreement that the
landowner has with an easement holder – the North Olympic Land Trust (NOLT).
The landowner can decide what to give to the NOLT, she stated.
According to the brochure, the sale of a conservation easement
(CE) means that ownership of the property is retained while the
development rights are transferred to the North Olympic Land Trust (NOLT).
The NOLT would then be responsible for “monitoring and enforcing the
five years to complete the project…so we expect to complete the first
phase, which consists of acquisition, within two years,” Lear went on.
“Decommissioning and restoration” will take three years after
that, she added.
states that $1.5 million SRFB (Salmon Recovery Funding Board) grant
would be used for purchase from willing landowners and restoration
activities on that property. “Without
purchase of this property, the second phase of the SRFB contract,
restoration, could not take place,” it states.
purchase of the property, the county will remove any existing structure
or buildings, as well as any septic systems.
It will plant floodplain trees and shrubs.
“In other words, the County will remove those conditions that
currently prevent the estuary and floodplain from functioning at their
historic level. In this
way, the County satisfies the terms of the SRFB grant,” the brochure
ask questions, make comments
questions and comments that were raised by attendees included, “Who
hires the appraiser?” Response was the county.
“That would seem suspect, since the appraiser would be hired by
the county, and the property would be purchased by the county.
That’s like a buyer hiring his own appraiser to set the price
of the property he’s planning on buying.”
about public access?” (Rivers End Road is presently a private road,
and the general public is not allowed to travel it without permission.
The county’s acquiring title to properties at Rivers End would
possibly allow public access to the property.”
conservation easement (CE) allow public access to the river – to the
tidelands?” CE’s have
nothing to do with public access, Lear responded.
maintains the [private] road?” Many
questions were raised about the private road into the properties.
about removal of the dike which presently protects the landowners at
River’s End. “I’m not
planning to” remove the dike, Lear responded.
In reviewing the project description for SRFB, however, Phase
I objectives are to purchase approximately 22 acres of property and
associated improvements on the west bank of the River to RM 0.9, remove
approximately 3,400' of dike, and begin revegetation.
In reviewing the project description for SRFB, however, Phase I objectives are to purchase approximately 22 acres of property and associated improvements on the west bank of the River to RM 0.9, remove approximately 3,400' of dike, and begin revegetation.(3)
this be successful without 100% participation?” asked one man.
“One half of the land acquisition would be considered a
success,” said Martin.
wondered about the bridge, and if it constricts the river. “It turns out that the bridge is in truth a ‘natural
constriction’”, said Lear.
don’t see this becoming a park down there,” asked one woman.
Some of these intents must be in writing, she said.
will have pressure for public access…We’re going to have a lot of
bodies… said one person.
long term plan? One wanted
to know. “In other
places, they’ve created trails.”
asked about the Corps of Engineers dike.
Martin replied that they might move the dike – set it back, but
don’t “plan” on removing it.
pitted people against people; you’ve contacted people one at a
time,” said one landowner. Martin
responded that there had been two mailings to the landowners.
“I’m sorry if you were left out,” he said.
asked if there was a “no sale” signup sheet, for those individuals
who did not want to sell. “Not
at this time,” was the response.
talked about an approved septic system called a “white water septic
system” which would work well in areas like this.
“Why not just replace the septic systems?” he asked.
“There are other issues – fish issues,” Lear replied.
materials would be removed, according to Lear.
Questions were raised what were considered “hazardous
materials”. Lear wanted
the individual to write a note and give it to her after the meeting.
“functioning at historical levels” mean?
owners can do it best; county says they need to see what works and what
asked his earlier question: “What can Clallam County and the state
Department of Fisheries and the federal government do to enhance the
habitat of the so-called endangered species that’s so different than
we the property owners can’t do ourselves without taxpayer’s
dollars. “And that needs
to be documented.”
back to the county when they changed the river the last time, and they
got sued over it, and they lost, and they haven’t changed it back. The county does not have a good reputation down here,”
terms of monitoring for our own satisfaction to see what does and
doesn’t work, but it’s required of the grant.
We have to monitor. We
have to show what we’ve done.”
“Those are your proposals. I’m not asking what you’re going to do.
I want to know your opinion of why you’re going to purchase the
DCD director, responded to this question:
“Remove structures, remove septic systems, revegetation – we
have very detailed…probably remove the structures…”
It’s in the grant application, he added. “The details of restoration things are going to be spelled
out in more detail afterwards.”
Lear: We have
some information about what occurred in the past about vegetation…this
is a conceptual idea…we’re early in that process.
You can see that there is vegetation…”
remove my house. That’s
going to make the salmon run better?” asked another man.
explained that “someone” had done her master’s thesis on
vegetation and determined that this area “used to be a floodplain
river’s not functioning well there…restoration of habitat to
before the Corps of Engineer level?
The river used to run all over down here…you’d never get to
“This is phase 1.”
sense solution proposed
Historically, with the river, when President Reagan was in office, the
federal government had funds which they used every year. That’s where the county got their gravel. It was free,
because they dredged the lower end of the river, and they kept the
flooding down to a minimum. And
they were in the river, when the fish weren’t there.
Now that’s common sense that worked, and it would work today.
Now that’s something that we the property owners, myself as president
of the homeowner’s association, we have tried and tried and tried to
get this done.
Beebe, since he won his lawsuit, takes gravel out of the river every
year. Common sense, this
river is the fastest moving river in the U.S… Point A to Point B,
gravel moves down the river. Common
sense dictates that it should be removed on an annual basis.
Not only would it enhance the habitat, but it would protect the
landowners from flooding, plus the county could use a lot of this
with Dave Blake [Blake Sand and Gravel] to remove and put the river back
into its historical channel where the county breached it and got sued,
but we came up against a wall of ‘forever pass the buck’ and here we
fundamentally believe that government should not be buying private
property,” stated Bob Forde. “It
erodes our form of government, and ultimately it’s detrimental to
private property ownership, which is the backbone of a free society”.
The federal government already owns more than 900 million acres,
under the guise of ‘saving salmon.’”
Especially when the newspapers report that we have had the
largest return of salmon in many years.
where the funding for SRFB came from – “is it a federal or state
explained that, relative to money, the Salmon Recovery Funding Board has
both federal and state money available.”
Martin continued that the Board is chaired by William Rucklehaus.”
(Rucklehaus is a former EPA director.)
wanted to know who NOLT was. Lear
responded that first, this issue is only for willing landowners.
“I can’t stress that enough,” she said.
She went on that NOLT is a private organization funded by
volunteers. They have a
membership drive, a volunteer board…” but didn’t address the issue
of federal and state money that bought land to place into easements
owned by the NOLT. “The county just pays the bills; the land trust
holds the easement.” The easements on the private property will be
monitored by the NOLT annually. NOLT
also has the right to sell their easement if they wish.
is your ‘vision’?” one
citizen wanted to know, but didn’t get an answer.
stated, “Right now, 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.”
She talked about the beach rights they own, which are valuable, and
wondered who would get those. Martin
replied that the county would obviously inherit those rights along with
“Will we be
able to remove our items before the county tears down our house?”
another woman wanted to know.
lived there for 12 years, and would have hoped to live there all of our
lives,” one man stated.
reminisced about the past ten years of money foolishly spent.
“I want an apology for ten years of flap I put in with you
guys,” he said.
are willing to sell?” one person asked.
Lear responded that she’d say phone calls from “willing
sellers” have gone up, a ballpark figure she guesses is “between
15-20”, and as time goes on, they expect to hear from others who are
willing. “All we need is one parcel to start restoration,” she
said, “The river will go where it wants, regardless of who owns the
five of the group were agency people, including representatives from
the Clallam County Department of Community Development (DCD)
director Bob Martin and Andy Brastad.
Cathy Lear, Clallam County Department of Natural Resources
(also a former member of the North Olympic Land Trust (NOLT), made
the main presentation, while Hansi Hals, Land Acquisition Project
Coordinator, Jamestown S’Kallam Tribe, Ann Seiter, representing
the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and one of the people who worked on
the Dungeness River Restoration Work Group, who, under the auspices
of the Dungeness River Management Team, devised the plan for
removing the landowners from their property.
County Commissioner Steve Tharinger (D) showed up to
observe the meeting at 7:50 p.m.
Problems arise when a channel is “fixed” into place, for
example, by a bridge….Important river processes are altered when a
dike is built that doesn’t allow flood waters to dissipate energy
by spreading out across the floodplain, or that inhibits the
river’s natural ability to store excessive sediment outside of the
channel. These problems
are the primary causes for increased flooding risks and declining
fish populations in the Dungeness. ( Page 3 of “Recommended
Restoration Projects for the Dungeness River”, dated
 SRFB Manual 18i: Estuarine/Nearshore Marine Application Forms, June 22, 2001 - (4) Short Description of Project
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