The owner of the property on the Hoquiam River where seven boats have sunk over the past year and a half, prompting emergency spill cleanup efforts by the Department of Ecology, has been charged with two misdemeanor counts in Hoquiam Municipal Court for maintaining a dangerous building and failure to obtain a building permit.
Mart Liikane owns the property at 200 Monroe St., on the same side of the river as the Hum-Dinger restaurant, but just upriver. Liikane, 85, has been cited by the city several times over the past year for code violations related to the property.
According to court documents filed by Hoquiam City Attorney Steve Johnson, the dock on Liikane’s property was condemned by the city “as a dangerous building or structure” on Aug. 15. On that date, the city building official served Liikane a notice and order to repair or demolish the dock. According to court records, Liikane did not appeal the order and, to this date, has not applied for a permit to repair or demolish the dock.
The second charge involves a steel frame structure on Liikane’s property, which was constructed without a building permit, according to charging documents. On Aug. 14, Liikane was ordered by the city to submit a “scope of work, a plan from a design professional” and obtain a shorelines permit and building permit for the structure. Liikane replied to city building official Lon Howell the following day that the steel frame building was a temporary cover for a boat, according to court documents. The structure remains and charging papers state Liikane has not met any of the requirements outlined by the city for the structure.
Hoquiam City Administrator Brian Shay said Liikane has requested a jury trial and elected to represent himself in the case. Johnson said Liikane has a pretrial conference set for Feb. 5 and a trial date has not yet been set. The maximum penalty for a misdemeanor is 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, to be determined by a judge if Liikane is found guilty.
City, State look at options
City of Hoquiam officials met with representatives from the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Ecology Friday to discuss options for the removal of the seven boats that have sunk at the property since July 2017.
“We are collectively working together on solutions to those overturned boats and spills in the river,” said Shay.
“We had a meeting with the City of Hoquiam Friday to continue to explore how to move forward on the issue of sunken and sinking vessels at this property and preventing future oil spills there,” said Sandy Howard, Department of Ecology Spills Program communications manager. “Ecology is pursuing enforcement actions for all the incidents.”
The first boat, the Donna, sank July 5, 2017; the Perwyn three weeks later, according to Ecology’s Spills Program. They were followed by the Two Sisters Nov. 6, 2017; the Lady Grace March 2, 2018; two unnamed vessels Oct. 17, 2018, and the most recent, a former Navy patrol boat Christmas Day 2018. The mast of the Lady Grace is still visible above the waterline.
The sinkings led to spills of motor oil and diesel fuel into the Hoquiam River, creating a sheen and a foul odor. Ecology crews responded to each, removing fuel from the vessels where it was safe to do so. In the case of the two unnamed vessels that sank in October, their position in the river made it unsafe to remove fuel and other liquids, so crews had to return several times to adjust booms used to contain the spills.
As far as the state agencies involved are concerned, “We learned Ecology absolutely is going after reimbursement for their cleanup responses, and the Department of Natural Resources plans to take corrective action as well,” said Shay.
The city is working with state agencies to fund the removal of the sunken vessels, said Shay.
“There is a process we can go through to remove the boats and be reimbursed for up to 90 percent of the cost through the Derelict Vessel Program,” said Shay.
Most of the sunken vessels are on tidelands owned by Liikane, which means they cannot be removed by the Department of Natural Resources Derelict Vessel Removal Program. Vessels on private property don’t qualify for the program because they are “there with permission of the property owner,” explained Wood.
“We still care about them and would love to remove all of them,” he said. “But when they are there with permission it automatically takes them out of the program.”
The Lady Grace, however, is on city-owned tidelands and its removal could qualify for 90 percent reimbursement from the Derelict Vessel Program, said Wood. However, this biennium’s allotment for the program has been spent; if the city removed the vessel now, it would not qualify for reimbursement. If the city waits until state funding is approved, it would qualify. Wood said the funds wouldn’t be in the program until around July 1, “providing the governor’s budget is passed.”
As for the other six vessels, their removal falls squarely on Liikane’s shoulders, according to city and state officials.