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Cheap Rent Over for Columbia River Resort Tenants?

February 16, 2012 by · Comments Off on Cheap Rent Over for Columbia River Resort Tenants? 

Crescent Bar Island, 30 miles southeast of Wenatchee, Wash. Photo courtesy of The Wenatchee World.

Decades of dirt-cheap lease payments on Crescent Bar Island in the Columbia River in central Washington could soon be at an end.

Grant County PUD commissioners on Feb. 21 will discuss increasing the lease it collects from the Port of Quincy from the current $100 per year to a “fair market rent,” as soon as the port’s existing lease expires in June. An increase to the port would lead to increases to the people who hold the approximately 400 leases to island RV lots and condos, The Wenatchee World reported.

In a news release, PUD spokeswoman Sarah Morford said, “The new rent will be a significant increase” over the current payment.

The port subleases the island to Crescent Bar Inc., a property management company now controlled by the islanders. The islanders pay their lease payments to Crescent Bar Inc., which pays a percentage to the port.

Curt Morris, president of the Port of Quincy board, said the port would not accept a higher lease payment unless it could pass the increase on to the islanders. He said he has yet to be contacted by the PUD.

The holders of island leases to RV lots are paying from $33 to $100 per year under leases that date back decades. Condo owners are paying from $100 to $626 per year.

These lease fees don’t include about $1,400 that each leaseholder pays in homeowner dues for island upkeep.

The PUD paid a consultant in early 2010 to come up with estimated fair market rental prices for the prime Columbia River waterfront.

The estimated new rates would have topped existing rates by more than 1,000 percent — $1,550 to $1,850 per month for RVs and $2,500 to $3,100 per month for condos.

Another, more panoramic view of Crescent Bar Island on the Columbia River in Washington.

The estimates caused an outcry among both the islanders and PUD commissioners.

Doug Caton, a leaseholder in the island’s North RV Park, said Tuesday that islanders are willing to work with the PUD, but their current leases don’t provide for increases.

The islanders have sued the PUD in federal court for new leases or compensation if they have to leave. They contend that their leases expire in 2023. The PUD says they expire in April and have ordered them off the island.

“It’s not like we don’t know it’s inexpensive,” said Caton, an East Wenatchee resident who owns two RV homes that he rents to island tourists. “We want to be fair with them and with the ratepayers of Grant County. We continue to want to work with them. That’s been our position all the time.”

Island conditions can’t be compared to a typical RV park, he said, because leaseholders pay for most island upkeep, including maintence to water and sewer systems.

On Tuesday, commissioners are expected to vote on negotiating a new lease payment from the Quincy port and hiring an appraiser to come up with a fair-market value.

Morford said that the appraiser’s findings and a final commission vote would come in the following weeks.

The Grant PUD owns Crescent Bar Island as part of the lands around its federally licensed Columbia River dams, Wanapum and Priest Rapids.

The utility seeks to redevelop the island for public recreation and wildlife protection, including the approximate third now occupied by private leaseholder RV homes and condos. About 60 island residences are occupied year round, according to PUD figures from 2009, the most recent.

The PUD’s effort for higher rent comes as islanders appear close to getting an injunction that would allow them to remain on the island until their legal case is settled. The ruling on the injunction is expected next month.

In the news release, PUD Commission President Tom Flint acknowledged that the pending court case could delay the PUD’s regaining control of the island for redevelopment.

Speaking for the commission, he said, “We strongly believe that Crescent Bar Island should be returned to full public use.”

Judge Gives New Life to Columbia River Resort Dwellers

June 6, 2011 by · Comments Off on Judge Gives New Life to Columbia River Resort Dwellers 

Crescent Bar Island in the Columbia River. Photo courtesy of The Wenatchee World.

A lawsuit filed by condo- and RV-space leaseholders fighting eviction from Crescent Bar Island is still alive, after a federal judge Thursday (June 2) declined a Grant County PUD motion to dismiss the case, The Wenatchee World reported.

Crescent Bar is about 30 miles southeast of Wenatchee, Wash., near the town of Trinidad.

But U.S. District Court Judge Justin Quackenbush ordered attorneys for both sides to consider postponing the case until federal dam authorities issue their own ruling on whether the islanders can stay — a process that could take years.

Attorneys have until “high noon” June 17 to issue their opinions on the proposed postponement, the judge said during a conference call with attorneys.

The World, and some Crescent Bar islanders listened by phone.

The judge said that if he agrees to postpone, he would order that the islanders’ eviction be halted until their lawsuit is resolved.

The judge repeatedly told attorneys that he would not issue any ruling that would conflict with a decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

The judge said FERC has the final say on whether the leaseholders can remain on the Columbia River island, although the islanders could appeal a FERC ruling.

The FERC is currently studying a “shoreline master plan” the PUD has filed that doesn’t include island condos or year-round RVs. Islanders have asked FERC to let them stay.

The proposal to postpone came after attorneys for the PUD and co-defendant Port of Quincy observed a predicament: Future litigation of the present suit hinges on FERC’s still undecided ruling about the islanders’ eviction.

The judge said he and his staff had spent “countless hours” studying the attorneys’ arguments, and it seems to him that:

  • Both the PUD and port had expressed written agreement in the 1970s to extend the lease, given FERC approval, to 2023.
  • That the PUD and port intended to make a “good-faith effort” to work with federal authorities to extend the lease, but then both changed their positions.
  • That the islanders may have relied on these and other assurances to invest in their RV homes on leased lots and leased condos.
  • The islanders could make a “pretty good Fifth Amendment claim” against the PUD and port.

The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides that private property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation.

“In fairness to everyone, it would seem to me that the extension of this long-term lease for another 11 years would resolve innumerable problems arising from the port district’s extending the lease to 2023,” the judge said. “… the defendants on the fact of the complaint made innumerable commitments to lessees to obtain FERC approval. It would appear from the face of the complaint that the defendant port district and PUD may well have breached commitments.”

The owners of 110 island condominiums and 305 RV spaces filed suit in January demanding the PUD honor their leases through 2023 or pay damages for their eviction.

Their own lease agreements, which show expiration dates in 2012, come under a sublease from the PUD to the Port of Quincy to develop the island for recreation and then from the port to private developer Crescent Bar Inc. to administer the island.

The port sought a lease extension in the 1970s because the private developer said it needed a longer lease term to get financing for the condos it built there.

The islanders’ suit doesn’t mention a damage amount, but in early efforts to settle with the PUD, they demanded new leases or $90 million.

In their motion to dismiss, the PUD and Port of Quincy, had claimed district court was the wrong venue for a dispute linked to a federal license to operate hydroelectric dams.

The PUD owns Crescent Bar as part of the lands affected by the water levels behind its Columbia River dams, Priest Rapids and Wanapum.

The PUD contends that FERC no longer approves of residential use of PUD lands, so the islanders have to go.

Islanders Vow to Continue to Fight Decision

April 30, 2010 by · Comments Off on Islanders Vow to Continue to Fight Decision 

A packed board room emotionally charged with tears and indignation didn’t sway Grant County, Wash., planned unit development (PUD) commissioners from officially denying lease extensions to some 400 condo and RV owners on Crescent Bar Island, according to the Wentachee World.

The unanimous vote obliges the islanders to remove their property by the time their leases expire in June 2012.

But the islanders, who’ve been lobbying hard for new, long-term leases, say it’s not over yet.

“We don’t think this is over. We’re not going to give up,” said Doug Caton, spokesman for the leaseholders, following the vote. “We look forward to working with the PUD toward a solution that works for everybody.”

Caton, who represents the island’s three homeowners associations, said the groups would meet to plan their next steps.

That could include appealing to a dispute-resolution service within the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the agency that oversees regulation of this region’s Columbia River hydropower dams.

“Mitigate not litigate” — was a refrain spoken by several of the approximately 100 leaseholders who commented during this week’s board meeting.

Leaseholders made an impassioned appeal to commissioners to delay the vote to give both sides more time to work toward a solution.

But commissioners held firm to their intentions, announced in mid-April, to vote in favor of the islanders’ ouster, citing changing federal regulations that no longer condone private residences on public land.

An April 30 deadline to inform FERC of their decision wouldn’t wait, they said.

The PUD owns Crescent Bar Island as part of the boundary of its federally licensed, Columbia River dams, Priest Rapids and Wanapum.

Commissioners based their ruling on the need to remain on good terms with FERC and protect their dams, which several qualified as “the lifeblood of the county.”

Commissioners said that a March 10 letter from FERC and their own conversations with FERC officials left a clear message that the feds want the people off and the island set aside for public recreation and wildlife protection.

The islanders disagree.

“We’re hearing something different from what you’re hearing,” said condo owner Heather Trautman of Kirkland, about leaseholders’ own conversations with FERC officials.

Jeanne Ramirez, one of fewer than 100 people who live on the island year-round, said angrily that the PUD’s own officials falsely assured them years ago that their leases would be renewed when the utility got its new licence for the dams. The license came in 2008.

“We were led down a path by a lot of people,” Ramirez said. “This is very disturbing. There should at least be some compensation.”

In a Dec. 3, 1998, letter to island leaseholders the PUD’s then board of commissioners wrote, “The District has no plans to alter existing private uses or destroy any development which has ocurred to date in conformity with the District’s leases.”

The letter followed a failed attempt in 1989 for the island’s property developer to petition the FERC to exclude parts of the island from the PUD’s dam boundary to allow more private development.

The letter makes no reference to island land use or plans beyond the June 2012 expiration of the leases.

Others at Monday’s meeting also alleged that false assurances by utility officials and others induced them to buy a island condo, even though they knew the ground lease expired in 2012.

More than 20 leaseholders spoke out at the meeting. Most pointed to family memories of island outings that date back generations, and the potential for many thousands of dollars in lost investments.

“Crescent Bar is cemented in the fabric of our family,” said longtime condo owner Christine Masterson of Renton. Her voice trembled with emotion. “It’s incumbent on you to have the time necessary to make the very best decision.”

Only two people, both Quincy residents, spoke out Monday against extending the island leases.

Bonnie Schroeder and Alex Sibara said they have memories of recreating on the island in the 1970s, before “no trespassing signs and fences” went up around the areas where they used to camp and roam with their families.

“Gentlemen, tear down that fence,” Schroeder told commissioners, inspired, she said, by a similar, Cold War quote by Ronald Regan.

Sibara described his own feeling of unwelcome at Crescent Bar to cries of “Baloney!” and “Untrue” from the crowd.

Gail Motzkus of Quincy said her parents have a home in the RV park and denied that the public has no access on the island.

“They just think they’re not welcome down there because they don’t go down there,” she said.

Condo owner Mike Bostwick of Puyallup said he also felt he’d received “assurances along the way” that the lease on his condo would be renewed.

Bostwick and others expressed disapproval of the “eastie/coastie” animosity expressed by Internet bloggers and Wenatchee World readers in the string of reader comments posted after Crescent Bar articles online.

“I’m saddened to see the animosity on both sides,” he said. “I’ve never had any problem with anyone in the 18 years I’ve been coming here.”

Joe Brunswick of Quincy agreed. “In the Pledge of Allegiance it says, “One nation, indivisible … We should keep that in mind and treat each other as such.”

Commission President Bob Bernd said of some of the posts, “It’s depressing to see what it’s degenerated into in a number of cases.”

Island spokesman Caton, who lives in East Wenatchee but rents out his two island vacation homes, delivered to the commission a petition with signatures of some 76 business owners in Quincy who favored new long-term leases.

Reading from a letter the associations sent to commissioners April 23, Caton said the islanders are working on a plan to meet FERC objectives, increase public access and preserve their homes.

He said that commissioners’ decision to enforce the 2012 deadline, “came as a complete surprise.”

Ultimately, commission members backed FERC’s call for full, public island access.

“We can’t jeopardize our FERC license,” Bernd said. “Our vision for Crescent Bar is that it will be a place for everybody. Family reunions don’t have to happen at privately owned property on public land.”

Officials’ Neglect Allowed Island Sprawl to Spread

April 6, 2010 by · Comments Off on Officials’ Neglect Allowed Island Sprawl to Spread 

One end of Crescent Bar Island on the Columbia River in Washington.

Editor’s Note: The Wenatchee (Wash.) World published this story tracing the evolution of development on Crescent Bar Island, an island resort in the Columbia River.

Decades of failed or ineffective enforcement of building codes, no defined property lines and leaseholders who were allowed to take up more space than their leases allowed.

That’s how an “RV” campsite on Crescent Bar Island became a sprawling, semipermanent subdivision of private property owners on public, Grant County PUD-owned land, Grant County officials say.

Some 300 leaseholders now own homes on an island that began as a large, partially manmade sandbar, created during the construction of Wanapum Dam. Some 100 more own condos there.

PUD officials say their new federal mandate as dam licensees obliges them to return the island to full public use, recreation and wildlife protection. Leases expire in 2012.

Early Development Recalled

Sam Lorenz, emergency manager for Grant County, was a county building official in 1976, and witnessed firsthand the island’s gradual transition.

The RV park on Crescent Bar Island.

Grant County had no building codes or ordinances for areas outside population centers like Ephrata or Moses Lake until 1976, when the state passed a uniform building code, Lorenz said.

The new law didn’t affect existing construction. Enforcement lacked in the early years.

Lorenz remembers that at the time, the island’s RV lot was still used for weekend camping.

Then came an idea to copy RV sites in Arizona, which allowed wintering Snow Birds to leave their RVs at the site year-round.

Gradually, the island’s RV park filled with travel trailers and some park model homes. Some owners started building.

“When we first visited the site in the 1970s, they were expanding the sewer system for it,” Lorenz recalled. “There were some small additions, like covered porches, but I don’t remember any elaborate additions.”

The RV park with its sublease-defined 350-square foot lots was never officially recorded as a plat with the county, Lorenz says. To this day it exists as one large lot. An engineer’s survey is the only document that shows the park’s intended lot layout.

“We got involved in the late 1980s because they were encroaching on fire safety,” Lorenz said. “Neighbors were fighting neighbors as far as who was getting building permits and who wasn’t.”

He added, “I didn’t have the authority to tear anything down without the power of the courts. The prosecutor’s office would take our complaints but not act on them. They said it was a manpower issue.”

“At the time, most were not local citizens,” Lorenz said. “They were from the west side and came over on the weekends. That’s when most of the construction happened. Then, we’d come on the scene Monday through Friday and they’d be gone. We’d only be able to talk to them by phone.”

Crescent Bar Island condos

‘No One Knows Where Their Property Line Is’

The RV park residents had an “architectural committee” charged with approving designs of structural additions to the units.

Longtime committee member Joanne Hansen still lives on the island.

“The biggest problem is no one knows where their property line is,” she said. “The county gave them permits to add decks, additions as long as they conformed with the fire code.”

When the county insisted on 10-foot separations for fire-access lanes, leaseholders created the space, but didn’t reduce their property’s footprint. Rather, they spread out in other directions, away from the fire lanes.

Why didn’t the committee enforce lot-size restrictions?

“Just like anything else, they are people who are volunteering to do a job,” Hansen said. “They don’t get paid. They don’t know the rules. The guy down the street got to build something… Nobody came in and put a stop to it. And it just devolved.”

Ed Pace, vice president of Crescent Bar Inc., the company that runs the island, was out of the country and unavailable to comment for this report.

Crescent Bar has been on the radar of Dave Nelson, the county’s director of community planning, since he started with the county in 1996.

“I recognized that things weren’t being done correctly,” Nelson said. “They were crowding things together, putting more than one unit on a lot.”

Nelson said that during his time at the county he met with island leaseholders and told them they could no longer get building permits unless they could show that they were leaving a 5-foot setback from the boundary of their property lines.

‘Can of Worms’

He said Crescent Bar hired a surveyor and started to redo boundary lines with the idea of resubmitting a site plan. They never finished.

“They discovered that it was a fairly significant can of worms to do it,” Nelson said. “To adjust boundary lines would have created a burden on someone else. They weren’t willing to go in and do that and clean it up without facing liability or legal issues.”

But wouldn’t that be the county’s responsibility?

“I can’t answer that. We have to maintain safety down there, and we’ve done it,” he said of mandatory 10-foot fire lanes now in place in most of the park.

“You’d have to go back and figure out who made the decision to allow it to be different down there,” he said. “I don’t know that it was illegal at the time. My code says that whatever was legal and existing at the time of the adoption of the newest code, can remain.”

“My building codes cycle every three years,” he said. “If every three years I had to make everything come into compliance, there would be no housing, no affordable housing. You just kind of inherit things and do the best you can.”

Nelson said no building permits have been approved for the Crescent Bar Island RV park since at least 2007, but only two permit applications have come in during that time.

As the county’s current emergency manager, Lorenz says he still worries about island evacuation.

“The island is subject to flooding if we have a dam failure, and there’s only one road out,” he said. “The only safety is to run to high ground, and they’d have a lot of running to do from that campground to get to high ground. During a heavy weekend there, it would be catastrophic.”

In hindsight, he says the county could have acted differently.

“We never really sat down and met with the whole group,” Lorenz said of the islanders. “We met with individuals. That was probably a mistake on our part. Had we approached them as a community, maybe we could have gotten their support, but that’s an afterthought.”

He added, “It’s a nice place. If they’d have maintained it as a public place, it would have been great. I feel sorry for them. But they created their own monster.”

RVers Cringe, Others Smile Over Island’s Fate

March 31, 2010 by · Comments Off on RVers Cringe, Others Smile Over Island’s Fate 

Property owners on Crescent Bar Island in southern Washington state got the news Monday: Their monthly payments could increase more than 1,000% if Grant County PUD commissioners agree to extend their leases by 11 years, according to The Wenatchee World.

The news hit them like an unexpected winter dip in the Columbia River, which surrounds their island paradise.

“We knew that there would be adjustments, but we had no idea they’d be this high,” said Heather Trautmann of Kirkland, member of the Crescent Bar Condominium Master Association’s Committee, after Monday’s meeting. “If we’re talking about a limited lease, it’s not fair to me that we are paying for all the improvements.”

Trautmann and nearly 100 others crowded the Grant County PUD boardroom Monday to hear utility staffers’ recommendations for the island’s future.

Commissioners didn’t take public comment at the meeting, but are accepting comment in writing through April 12.

They may approve staff’s recommendation or come up with one of their own. Federal dam authorities expect to receive a plan for the island by April 30.

Staff laid out their preferred option for commissioners Monday:

  • Extend leases, which expire in 2012, for up to 11 years.
  • Increase lease payments to market value and include fees to offset the estimated costs — in excess of $5 million to $8 million — to upgrade the island’s aged sewer system.
  • Holders of leases to RV lots would have to remove all the patios, decks and other add-ons before 2012 that extend beyond their RVs’ intended footprints and currently make their RVs block fire access.
  • After the 11 years, lease holders have to vacate the island to make way for full public recreational use and wildlife conservation.

According to preliminary estimates, leaseholders of RV sites would see their monthly payments increase from the current $120 per month, including homeowners association dues, to between $1,550 and $1,850.

Condo owners monthly payments could increase from the current $100 to $626 per month to $2,500 to $3,100 per month. Condo association president Dick Peterson of Bothell said island leaseholders are already paying extra money each month for sewer system improvements. He couldn’t immediately say how much.

“It’s unclear what all the numbers mean and where they came from,” he said. “We’d like to see fair market value. The numbers in the report are very high.”

Crescent Bar resident Florena Rumpf said simply, “Tell them to take it easy, because I want to stay.”

Larry Cain, another island resident, also questioned staff claims that RVs had overflowed their footprints, blocking fire lanes. “We do have fire lanes,” he said. “I’m surprised that they didn’t have their ducks lined up. Even the commissioners are questioning the people they’ve got working for them.”

Many Grant County residents approve of a plan to evict the island residents and return the island to full public access.

“I’m glad they have to move,” said Jim Manly, a retired ag worker from Quincy. “They’ve had a good thing there for a long time. Seems like when they moved in, we were crowded out.”

Manly didn’t attend Monday’s commission meeting, but was at the PUD on other business. Christine Hooyer, an Ephrata real estate agent who was also conducting other business at the PUD, agreed.

“I do want them to leave. The time has come,” she said. “I think they’ve had a sweet deal, but as a Quincy kid who used to play at Crescent Bar, we have been shut out. There’s no question.”

Hooyer said she’d favor giving the residents more time to leave. “Should they have read their leases? Yes… but I don’t want you to think I’m saying, ‘Get out, get out, get out,’” she said.

Crescent Bar resident Cain added that people sitting next to him at Monday’s meeting seemed happy at the notion of island residents leaving.

“They were gloating,” Cain said. “But we’re going to lose our homes.”

Lease Extensions, Rent Hikes Proposed for Islanders

March 29, 2010 by · Comments Off on Lease Extensions, Rent Hikes Proposed for Islanders 

A portion of Crescent Bar Island

Lease extensions for as long as 11 years and huge hikes in monthly rent is the option preferred by Grant County PUD staff for the 400 leaseholders on Crescent Bar Island, located in the Columbia River in the state of Washington, according to The Wenatchee World.

Staffers were to present their recommendation to commissioners today (March 29) as part of a larger report that was released Sunday evening.

Current leases for RV and condo owners expire in 2012.

According to the report, PUD staff will recommend that island leaseholders receive lease extensions for up to 11 years, as long as they:

  • Pay market-value rent fees that could range from $1,550 to $1,850 a month for RVs and $2,500 to $3,100 for condos. Fees include a monthly payment for occupying publicly owned land and for improvements to the island’s failing water and sewer systems. Current rates total $33 per year for RV leases and $100 to $626 per year for condo owners. Leaseholders also pay homeowner dues of about $1,400 annually. The new rent and fees amount to what could be about a 1,190 percent increase for RVs and 1,052 percent increase for condos, calculated at the lowest end of the estimated pay range.
  • Prior to 2012, remove all additions, decks, sheds and other structures from RVs to open up roadways and bring the lots into compliance with county codes. According to the staff report, RV lot sizes in the current lease are supposed to measure 350 square feet. These have expanded to as much as 3,600 square feet as many leaseholders added additions, decks and carports to their once-mobile vehicles.
  • Remove all personal property and vacate the island when the extended lease expires. In the report, staffers say this option would give island residents a longer period to get off the island. But getting residents — full and part-time — off the island is the goal, the staff report says, to return the island to full public recreation and wildlife conservation by 2023.
  • Another option, the staff report says, is to require that all island leaseholders get off the island by May 2012.

Today’s commission meeting kicks off a two-week public comment period.

Commissioners will consider staff proposals and make a decision on Crescent Bar by late April. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has final approval authority.

A hot vacation spot, Crescent Bar Island is on the Columbia River at the foot of spectacular basalt cliffs, 27 miles southeast of Wenatchee.

The Grant PUD owns the island as part of the shoreline around its Wanapum Dam.

Restoring the island to public recreation and habitat conservation is a requirement of the PUD’s federal license to operate Wanapum and its sister dam, Priest Rapids.

A FERC official told PUD staff in a letter dated March 10 that residential use on the island is “inconsistent with the commission’s policy of maximizing public recreational development.”

Island residents say they have taken care of the island and want to stay.

Crescent Bar covers almost 160 acres. Half is currently occupied by private development, including the RVs, condos and a 9-hole golf course.

Feds: Crescent Bar RVers Must Leave Island Resort

March 17, 2010 by · Comments Off on Feds: Crescent Bar RVers Must Leave Island Resort 

Crescent Bar Island in the Columbia River in Washington.

Federal dam regulators want the approximately 400 condo and homeowners of Crescent Bar Island located on the Columbia River in Washington to leave when their leases expire in 2012, period.

How long they have to clear out is something Grant County PUD staff is studying now. Commissioners will hear staff’s recommendation March 29, according to The Wenatchee World.

In a March 10 letter that appears to quash any possibility of the island residents remaining in their homes, Robert J. Fletcher, an official with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) lays out the agency’s intentions to PUD staff. It states in part:

“… the Commission does not condone residential development and occupancy on project lands, since such residential use is inconsistent with the Commission’s policy of maximizing public recreational development,” Fletcher wrote in the letter. “Consequently, your plan must demonstrate compliance with the commission’s policies on this issue.”

The 160-acre Columbia River island is about 20 miles southeast of Wenatchee. Its use is subject to federal regulation because it falls within the boundaries of the PUD’s Wanapum and Priest Rapids electricity-producing dams.

The PUD’s new federal license to operate the dams obliges the utility to protect the island for scenic quality and enhance it for public recreation and access.

According to the letter, that means a park, natural areas, public beach, boat launch, trail, picnic tables and restrooms can stay and be enhanced.

But island residents have to go, and so do six campsites along the mainland shoreline, near the island’s entrance bridge.

The letter sets an April 30 deadline for PUD staff to describe to federal authorities how they plan to accomplish those goals.

Between the letter and the utility’s license requirements, Kelly Larimer, the PUD’s lands resource manager, said Tuesday (March 16) that it no longer appears to be a question of if the residents can stay, but of when they’ll have to leave.

“We’re going to have to weigh what a reasonable transition period is,” she said of a timeline for getting the residents off the island.

The final decision, and timeline, will fall to commissioners. They’re all looking to staff for recommendations.

“There are options on Crescent Bar, but they definitely lay out that it doesn’t include permanent residence,” Bob Bernd, commission president said Tuesday. “I think it’s only fair that we get on with the process. Some of those people have been there for generations. They’re on pins and needles. It’s up to us to come up with some type of plan to go forward. There’s no way we’re going to make everyone happy.”

According to Commissioner Greg Hansen, a plan might include persuading federal regulators to give the island residents an established number of years to vacate, possibly as long as a decade, to reduce risk of potential leaseholder lawsuits.

PUD attorney Mitch Delabarre said he’s considering the utility’s legal options and is working with staff, but isn’t yet ready to discuss details or potential timelines.

Hansen agrees that the letter limits hoped-for options and blames the current and previous PUD boards for not taking action to prevent permanent island dwellings.

“If you read the intent between the lines of the letter it sounds like they want them off, fairly soon,” Hansen said of the residents.

He added, “It’s going to be hard. This is one of the toughest decision I’ve faced in my years on the commission. We’re looking at a time span in hopes of giving the people the chance to sell, to move off, or whatever. The problem is, when you lease the place, you’ve got to realize that it isn’t forever.”

Commissioner Terry Brewer said it’s too soon to comment before hearing a recommendation from PUD staff.

“We’ll have these discussions with staff. They’ll have the discussions with FERC. We’ll do our best to come up with a proposal that we think FERC will agree to that will be in the best interest of the district long term,” Brewer said.

Commissioner Tom Flint said that the letter “sets the bar” regarding public access and island use.

“At this time, we’re looking at our options,” he said. “We’re still wrestling with the language they put in the letter. It would be premature for me to make any type of decision based on that at this point.”

Commissioner Randy Allred said the letter will oblige the board to act quickly.

“It brings this to a new level of attention,” he said. “We can’t keep talking about it. Something’s going to have to happen.”

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