E. River Spur bridge repairs complete

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PRIEST RIVER — Progress is being made on an ongoing access dispute on East River Spur Road, according to the Idaho Department of Lands.

Bonner County has completed repairs to a deteriorating bridge amid a longstanding access dispute with a couple who own property off East River Spur.

Bonner County officials and IDL entered into an agreement last year to improve the bridge, but the county later sought to terminate an access easement because a significant amount of public funds were being expended for the benefit of the couple. The state declined to terminate the easement.

Since then, the state has made several attempts to facilitate a solution between the county and the landowners to resolve the access dispute.

Bonner County has agreed to repair the bridge and restore it to its original 7-ton load rating set by the Idaho Transportation Department in 1997.

The IDL, meanwhile, offered to assign the easement to the landowners at no cost after the county repaired the bridge. Under the terms of the easement, the landowners would be responsible for future upkeep of the bridge and road.

“To date, the private landowners have been unwilling to accept the offer and any future responsibility for maintaining the road and bridge,” IDL said in news release issued on Friday.

The state notes that it did not build East River Spur and has no need for it in order to access endowment lands for management purposes. As a result, IDL cannot use money intended to Idaho’s public schools to fix or maintain a private road or bridge.

The state adds that like any grantee, the county can request termination of an IDL easement if it determines the easement is no longer needed or warranted and all liabilities have been addressed.

With the bridge repairs complete, Bonner County has terminated its easement across endowment lands and IDL has offered the landowners two options. One would be to provide permanent access, while the other provides for only temporary access.

“Both options are at no cost to the private landowners. However, the permanent access option would require the landowners to maintain the road and bridge moving forward,” IDL said in the news release.

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

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