Owner of abandoned floating home faces charges

By Eric Florip, Columbian transportation & environment reporter

Published:

Updated: February 10, 2012, 9:42 PM

 
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The man who abandoned his floating home on the bank of the Lake River, leaving it to languish for months near the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge last year, now faces criminal charges.

Lance Balderree has been charged with one count of unlawful hydraulic project activities, a gross misdemeanor that carries a penalty of up to 364 days in jail, said Gene Pearce, the prosecutor handling the case. Balderree also faces two counts of abandoning a vessel on aquatic lands — one count for house, another for the now-sunken boat he used to tow it. Both are misdemeanors with a penalty of up to 90 days in jail, Pearce said.

Pearce said a court summons has been requested for Balderree, who now lives in Karnes City, Texas.

Balderree had lived at McCuddy’s Ridgefield Marina until early last year, when a dispute over moorage fees with the marina prompted him to pick up and move out. He towed his house a short distance upstream, parking it on the bank of the Lake River near an entrance to the wildlife refuge. In March, the 32-foot vessel Balderree used to tow the house sank. It remains at the bottom of the river, said Clark County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Fred Neiman.

Changing river levels later caused the abandoned house to tilt into the water, partially submerging it for months. But local and state officials declined to step in and move it. Agencies said they lacked the resources to remove a structure that wasn’t considered an environmental threat.

It wasn’t until the house broke free from the bank last November that McCuddy’s employees towed it back to the marina and secured it. The sheriff’s office and Ridgefield police also responded. At that point, the state Department of Natural Resources indicated the house became the marina’s responsibility.

The house was ransacked while it sat vacant along the river last year, showing at least one broken window and damage from the outside. Authorities also noticed evidence that other people may have lived inside at some point, Neiman said. Deputies found fresh bread, peanut butter and beer bottles inside when the home was moved, he said.

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