House abandoned in Lake River moved back to Ridgefield marina

By Eric Florip, Columbian transportation & environment reporter

Published:

Updated: December 6, 2011, 6:59 PM

 

A long-abandoned floating house that languished near the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge for months has been towed back to a nearby marina, according to the Clark County Sheriff’s Office.

The action came after residents called 911 on Thanksgiving Day to report the home was shifting in high water, said Sgt. Fred Neiman of the sheriff’s office marine unit. The home — moored without permission on the bank of Lake River since early this year — sat partially submerged and stuck when the river level dropped last summer. But heavy rains and rising water helped lift it off the shoreline last month, Neiman said.

“It had broken loose and was floating free,” he said.

Concerned that the wayward home could damage other houses at nearby McCuddy’s Ridgefield Marina, marina employees stepped in and pushed the house back against the bank. Then they towed it to the marina’s docks and secured it, Neiman said. The sheriff’s office and Ridgefield Police Department also responded, he added.

The home had been previously moored at McCuddy’s before owner Lance Balderree, in a dispute with the marina over moorage fees, moved it down the Lake River and relocated it along the east bank. The vessel he used to move it there sank in March. It remains at the bottom of the river, Neiman said.

The damaged house was back at the marina by last week. By then, the house had been ransacked, Neiman said. Authorities also came across evidence that people may have lived inside at some point — fresh bread, peanut butter and beer bottles were found in the house, Neiman said.

Home’s future unclear

What happens next is unclear. An e-mail from a state Department of Natural Resources official last week indicated McCuddy’s has taken responsibility for the house from now on. A representative of the marina couldn’t be reached for comment.

Regardless of its fate, Neiman said he’s happy to see the home off the riverbank.

“It just continued to be a hazard,” Neiman said. “It was just a matter of time before it was going to break away again and at least be a hazard to navigation.”

Local authorities haven’t had contact with Balderree for months. The sheriff’s office has submitted a report to the Clark County prosecuting attorney, Neiman said, but no charges have been filed in the case.

The Department of Natural Resources, which manages state waterways, was not involved in the removal of the home, spokesman Bryan Flint said this week. The department had received a bid from a salvage company to remove the house in August, but state officials decided it was too expensive — and the home not enough of an environmental danger — to act.

The sheriff’s office said from the start that it didn’t have the resources or the equipment to move a house. Neiman said he doesn’t know what will eventually become of it, but last month’s developments were a step in the right direction.

“That’s good news as far as we’re concerned,” Neiman said.

Eric Florip: 360-735-4541; http://twitter.com/col_enviro; eric.florip@columbian.com.