Supreme court affirms Priest Lake fill ruling

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PRIEST LAKE — Dueling interpretations of Priest Lake’s high-water mark have no bearing on the Idaho Department of Lands’ charter to regulate encroachments on the lake bed.

That’s the upshot of a ruling by the Idaho Supreme Court on Philip Hudson’s appeal of a lower court’s order that he remove fill he placed in order to protect his waterfront.

The fill included a seawall and an elevated beach, according to court documents.

Hudson was accused in 2014 of violating the Idaho Lake Protection Act by placing fill in the bed of the lake without a permit. The fill extended approximately 19 feet waterward of the elevation of 2,437.64 feet, which the state holds is the lake’s high-water mark after the completion of the Outlet Bay Dam in 1951.

The state ordered the removal of the fill, but Hudson refused, resulting in a 2015 lawsuit against him. Hudson raised counterclaims arguing that the fill was actually on his property because it was located upland of the high-water mark when Idaho was admitted into the union in 1890, prior to the installation of the dam at Outlet Bay.

The state, however, obtained partial summary judgment in 1st District Court in 2016. Judge Barbara Buchanan ruled that IDL had regulatory authority over the fill regardless of the location of a natural or ordinary high-water mark because it was on the bed of a navigable lake.

As a result, Hudson was ordered to remove the unauthorized fill below 2,437.64 feet and to restore the shoreline to its original state.

Hudson appealed the granting of summary judgment, arguing that was a genuine material issue of fact regarding the lake’s high-water mark.

But the high court ruled that Buchanan made the right call, finding that the location of the high-water mark was immaterial because IDL is responsible for regulating all such encroachments.

“Under either argument, it is undisputed that Hudson placed fill that extends into the navigable bed of Priest Lake. It is undisputed that Hudson’s fill constitutes an encroachment,” Justice Warren Jones said in a 10-page opinion released on Monday.

The rest of the justices unanimously agreed.

The state was also awarded costs and attorney fees on appeal.

“On appeal, Hudson proffered substantially the same argument that previously failed before the district court. Hudson did not present any new persuasive law, nor did he significantly challenge the existing law upon which the district court relied in granting summary judgment in favor of the state,” Jones wrote.

Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at kkinnaird@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.

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