Although things have been quiet recently on the Save Cougar Bay battlefront, new shots were fired yesterday by the Cougar Bay Osprey Protective Association, which filed a lawsuit challenging the Idaho Department of Lands’ rejection of their application to protect the pilings and booms in Cougar Bay. Having been rejected twice by the Department, without so much as a hearing, the Osprey Association filed a “Petition for Writ of Mandate” to have the Court order that IDL accept the application and hold a hearing.
A most unlikely pair of attorneys — Scott Reed and John Magnuson, who are usually on the opposite sides of land use and waterways cases — filed the case late Thursday afternoon on behalf of the Osprey Association.
The basis for the rejection of the permit application by respondents and their attorney was the determination that only a government agency is empowered to improve waterways for wildlife habitat and other non recreational uses by members of the public. This interpretation would prohibit other non-profit organizations such as the Idaho Nature Conservency, Ducks Unlimited and the Coeur d’Alene Lakeshore Property Owners Association from seeking to improve waterways for navigational, wildlife habitat or other recreational uses …
The afore-described duties [to accept the application and hold a hearing] incumbent upon [IDL] constitute plain official duties and require no exercise of discretion. [IDL] had no legal right to reject the non-commercial encroachment permit application
The petition points out that “Cougar Bay represents only 1.3 percent (417 surface acres) of the lake where kayaks and smaller water craft can safely enjoy the quiet scenery without risk of being swamped or overrun by larger faster water craft.”
The petition goes into some detail concerning the benefits to recreation and habitat inherent in protecting the pilings and booms. And the petition notes that a great deal of public, private, and non-profit investment has permanently preserved much of the shoreline. The application, the petition says, is consistent with Idaho’s Public Trust Doctrine.
It will be interesting to see what this legal wrinkle does to the recent agreement between Kootenai County and IDL over piling removal.
We remain convinced that Cougar Bay is an extraordinary place, deserving of much more protection than currently exists. The pilings and booms are a remarkable historic and wildlife and recreational resource, but they are, perhaps, the last line of defense. Good luck to the Osprey Association and its lawyers. And stay tuned.