Willow Bar on the Chetco River is scheduled to be surveyed this week by the Oregon Division of State Lands (DSL) to try to determine the ordinary high water line.
The line is key to a dispute between landowner Bill Hansen and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife over a fishing easement on Hansens land.
Based on the results of a private survey, Hansen believes part of the fishing easement access road crosses his property.
The position of Fish and Wildlife is that the road goes from within the easement to public property below the ordinary high water line.
John Lilly, assistant director for planning and policy with the DSL, said he toured the property in June. His department reviewed the survey Hansen commissioned and didnt agree with the results. Lilly said they reviewed documentation and aerial photos to confirm what they found on the ground.
He said Oct. 19 that the DSL has retained an expert, a licensed surveyor, to review Hansens survey and go out to the site.
Based on that information, said Lilly, the DSL hopes to make a determination about the ordinary high water line before the month is out.
Megan Dugan, a spokesperson for fish and wildlife, said Todd Confer, assistant biologist with the departments Gold Beach office, was scheduled to meet with someone from DSL in the middle of the week to try to determine the ordinary high water line.
She said her department wants to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.
Kevin Neely, a spokesperson for Attorney General Hardy Myers, said the Oregon Department of Justice has been working with the DSL on the issue and will continue to do so.
Meanwhile, local fishermen are anxious for the DSL to make its determination.
Dick Sutter, president of the South Coast Fishermen, said fishermen dont want to trespass on Hansens property, but they also dont want their rights trampled on. He said Fish and Wildlife has had problems with its easement during the years since Hansen purchased the property.
Sutter said hes been harassed, and has heard of other people who have been harassed, by Hansens dogs. He said the South Coast Fishermen, as an organization, has decided to back off the issue until the state determines the ordinary high water line.
Its been one thing after another with this easement, he said. We would like to see it come to a conclusion.
We feel state lands has let the fishermen down, he said, but Fish and Wildlife has tried to solve the problem numerous times.
River guide Harvey Young reported being harassed by Hansen recently while he and his family were sitting on the gravel bar.
My last encounter with him was pretty vicious, said Young. He was rude to my wife. We were pretty shocked. He said many people are disgruntled about Hansen.
I dont want to see access points being taken away from the public, said Young.
He said he doesnt have anything to gain personally from that position. In fact, he said, it would be better for his business if fishermen had to fish from boats, instead of from the bank.
But I believe the future lies in people being able to access the fishing, said Young.
Fisherman Jim Lindley said Hansen dragged logs across the fishing access footpath last year, which Lindley cut up and dragged off.
He said the whole reason fish and wildlife paid $20,000 in 1979 for the easement was to provide access to the gravel bars for people and vehicles.
Thats what the money was spent for, he said.
Lindley said fishermen have been trying to keep the access open for 10 years.
I cant understand why its taken so long, he said. A small piece of government didnt work.
He said the access is needed because many of the other holes are overcrowded.
The ruling should be now, said Lindley. Its taken too long to come to a decision.
He said the harassment hasnt all been on Hansens part. He said some fishing guides are so mad at Hansen now that they tell their customers to hold off on bathroom breaks until they get to Hansens property.
Hansens surveyor, Shawn Kampmann, said, My wife and I were regularly subjected to verbal abuse, profane gestures and were the target of objects hurled at us from passing vehicles while performing this survey.
He urged certain state employees to tone down their rhetoric until the issue can be resolved in a legal and sportsmanlike manner.