‘Citizens’ sue state to boot out liveaboards

Anchor-outs are trespassing, hurting the local economy,

the lawsuit says.

An island property rights group wants liveaboards out of Eagle Harbor’s inner waters, and is suing the state to get them moved.

“Bainbridge Island has had a problem with illegally anchored boats, houseboats and liveaboards trespassing on state-owned land located in the center of Eagle Harbor,” said Gary Tripp of Bainbridge Citizens, who announced the lawsuit Monday.

“This situation has caused Eagle Harbor to no longer be a destination for recreational boaters, (and) restaurants and shops in Winslow have lost business because of the lack of boat traffic.”

Tripp also blames liveaboards for sewage contamination in the harbor and for littering.

The nonprofit organization, which was formerly known as Bainbridge Citizens United and before that as Bainbridge Concerned Citizens, is suing the state Department of Natural Resources to compel the enforcement of state regulations against trespass on public aquatic lands.

“DNR has been notified numerous times over the last 20 years of illegal trespass of boats on state public lands and has repeatedly refused to enforce its own regulations,” Tripp said. “Bainbridge Citizens has been forced to sue DNR to compel them to enforce their own regulations.”

Liveaboard Ryan Landworth called Tripp’s lawsuit a “mean spirited” attack aimed at a group of lower-income residents.

“What an evil man,” Landworth said. “Where does he get this anger and drive? It amazes me.”

Landworth disputed all of Tripp’s assertions about pollution and crime, adding that “a handful of shore residents with million dollar homes obviously don’t understand someone living modestly in a 30-foot sailboat.”

Tripp countered that it’s a matter of principle.

“Enforcing the law is never evil,” he said. “This situation cannot go on. It’s time that people follow the law.”

Bainbridge Citizens is represented by attorney Dennis Reynolds in the Kitsap County Superior Court case.

Their argument cites state laws that bar non-leased anchorage in the same area on state aquatic land for longer than 30 days. Other state codes cited by the group require liveaboards to reside in shore-based, regulated marinas or in “open water marinas.”

The City of Bainbridge Island is in the process of designating an open water marina within the proposed Eagle Harbor Anchoring and Mooring Plan.

That led the chair of the Bainbridge Harbor Commission to question the lawsuit’s effect.

“DNR is following its own regulations because it’s allowing Bainbridge Island to establish the anchoring and mooring plan,” commission chair Rob Jacques said. “This suit will not have any immediate impact...because the problem is already being solved.”

As for Bainbridge Citizens’ concerns about the liveaboard population, Jacques stressed that some harbor dwellers have also been the victim of harassment and vandalism. He also pointed to studies conducted by the Harbormaster that shows most pollution in the harbor is caused by land-based activities.

“Water quality monitoring has not found that people residing in the harbor are polluting,” he said. “We have, however, found that we’re getting a lot of pollution from sewage after rain storms, from pesticides in lawns and from oil from the asphalt at road ends.”

Jacques believes the proposed anchoring and mooring plan will put the liveaboard lifestyle in compliance with state rules before the suit forces residents out of the harbor.

“Right now what really needs to happen is for tempers to die down and both sides need to listen rather than shout at each other,” he said.

Some liveaboards have opposed the mooring plan, but for different reasons. Several hope the plan fails, clearing the way for a direct showdown with the state. They say they’ll take DNR to court on grounds that state-controlled waters are held in the “public trust.”

The City Council will next discuss the anchoring and mooring plan on June 6.

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