Landowner charged in dispute over right to use Kettle River - Man faces charge for allegedly placing tree across waterway

Benjamin Shors
Spokesman-Review Staff writer


Ferry County, WA - The Ferry County prosecutor charged a Kettle River landowner with a misdemeanor this week for allegedly blocking the river with a tree.

The county contends Harold Honeycutt, 72, dragged the tree into the Kettle without obtaining a state permit to alter the river's flow. The charge, filed Tuesday, is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

"If he doesn't comply, eventually it will go to court," said Michael Sandona, the county's deputy prosecuting attorney. "If he wins, we were wrong. If he loses, we'll be asking for jail time."

Sandona said that if Honeycutt removes the tree, the charge will be dropped.

Honeycutt has fought to keep boaters off the river, citing a 1925 ruling that he says allows him to block the river. The county prosecutor disagrees, arguing that state law ensures public access to the water.

Honeycutt denies moving the tree, but admits he placed warning signs on it and drove stakes into the river bed.

"I have no intention of moving it," he said. "If the sheriff comes out to arrest me, well, then we'll negotiate."

Last week, a state wildlife official found tracks near the tree indicating it had been dragged across the river, according to the prosecutor's office.

Several other homeowners along the river -- which winds back and forth across the Canadian border in northeast Washington -- have chased boaters off the river. Boaters complain they have been shot at, yelled at, and chased.

In Curlew, a motel owner said several tourists have canceled trips to the region, fearing for their safety.

"So far I've had three cancelations," said John Egge, owner of the Curlew Motel. "I've had to write a gentleman back and say, `You will not get shot at.' "

This summer, boaters complained shots were fired over boats near Orient, along the border of Stevens and Ferry counties. No similar complaints have been received near the Ferry County town of Curlew, although one property owner publicly warned uninvited floaters they would be treated as intruders.

Honeycutt said some floaters have threatened him. In recent weeks, he said, someone wrote obscenities about him on a nearby bridge and threw nails in his driveway.

He argued the tree may help provide habitat for fish.

Mike Whorton, enforcement head for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's eastern region, said the state will occasionally issue permits to place logs in streams. Honeycutt did not receive a permit, he said.

"You can't just block the creek," Wharton said. "What he's done is in violation of state law."


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