'Friends' seek river solution
by John Elliott

    Last Tuesday, with an audience of 50, a newly organized group met to discuss issues relative to property and user rights along the Kaweah River in Three Rivers.  The meeting of the so-called "Friends of the Kaweah River" was conducted by William Logan, a criminal defense attorney, who has assumed a position of leadership in the group and also owns riverfront property.

    Logan made it clear that property rights are not his expertise.  However, he did cite recent statements and policy made by Tulare County officials that seemingly have granted easements for the use of private property which is located between the "average" high and low water marks of the river.

    Logan says that these actions have raised numerous questions, and now the "sheriff's department will be hesitant to make arrests for trespassing."  He urged all property owners to "contact your own lawyer" and call the title insurance companies to see if they are aware of the situation.

    "Private property owners who believe they have suffered a diminution of property values," Logan said, "should take up the issue with the Tulare County Board of Supervisors."

    Logan also called on members of the audience to participate in the discussion.

    Rev. Warren M. Campbell of Kaweah, who recently lost his bid to be elected to the CSD, said that the issue remains whether the Kaweah River is navigable.

    "If it is not navigable, should recreational use still be allowed?" asked Susan Darsey.

    Darsey, a local real estate broker who owns riverfront property, was asked to provide a Realtor's point of view.

    "For years, when they [local Realtors] sold river property to individuals they always told them [buyers] that people had the right to recreate through the property," Darsey said.

    After researching the situation and attending a succession of public meetings on the river rafting ordinance, Milton Melkonian, of Lake Elowin Resort, is convinced that the county doesn't have a legal leg to stand on.

    "We've been duped," Melkonian said.  "I have to place the blame on [Supervisor] Bill Sanders.  What is the motivation to make our private property recreational?"  That motivation, Sanders has stated during public hearings on the Kaweah River commercial rafting ordinance is tourist dollars.  The regulation of the river by the county, Sanders stated, is in the best interest of Tulare County and Three Rivers.

    Built into that Kaweah River ordinance is an annual public hearing for review that is tentatively scheduled for the Tulare County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 7.  According to Jennifer Munn, a county planner who helped draft the ordinance, in 1999 the county received inquires about the regulations but not a single complaint.

    Logan urged all in attendance to become involved by joining the Friends of the Kaweah River.

    "I don't know the answers to these difficult questions," Logan said.  "What we want to know tonight is that you want to be a part of a political voice that will redress these grievances."

    The monthly town meetings, conducted by Supervisor Sanders, will resume its regular forth Tuesday schedule in January 2000.

Article published in the Kaweah Commonwealth Nov. 19, 1999
Copyright 1999 Kaweah Commonwealth
Reprinted by permission

The Kaweah Commonwealth can be reached at:
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mailing address: PO Box 806, Three Rivers, Ca. 93271