After decades of storing docks at a Lake Coeur d'Alene bay without official permission, a Coeur d'Alene marine construction company is asking the state for just that.
"I don't see why it shouldn't be (approved)," said Skip Murphy, owner of Murphy Marine Construction Company. "It's a practice that's necessary, and it's been going on for 60 years."
Murphy Marine is requesting an encroachment permit from the Idaho Department of Lands to conduct commercial dock storage on 10 acres of Cougar Bay, which will be discussed at a public hearing tonight.
The company has been storing private docks on Lake Coeur d'Alene for roughly 60 years, Murphy said, 20 of them at Cougar Bay.
"It's just a well-protected area. It's in shallow water, a bay not used by (motor) boaters," Murphy said, adding that his company stores hundreds of docks there during the winter. "In the wintertime, the lake gets so nasty and rough, with the ice and wind. If we didn't store these docks, they'd be turned into kindling."
In the past he has stored docks at the southern part of the bay, he said. The 10 acres proposed for the permit is farther north.
The site would be boomed off and used only for temporary storage of privately owned, permitted encroachments that are awaiting repair or need winter protection, according to the permit application. It would also temporarily store maritime construction vessels and equipment.
Storage or encroachment assembly would not exceed six weeks, according to the permit application. The permit would not allow for construction of float homes.
Murphy said he isn't sure if the area would be boomed off year-round.
"It doesn't have to be. We're pretty flexible on what we do out there in the summertime," he said.
Five acres would be subleased to North Idaho Maritime for the same usage.
When Murphy's company began storing docks in Cougar Bay, he said, the issue of getting a permit was never raised.
"I had verbal permission from Foss Maritime to store them (docks) there for as long as I wanted to," he said.
It wasn't until 2009, when Murphy bought Foss Maritime's property and the state began removing pilings in the area, that the Department of Lands approached him about getting a permit.
"I think it's more necessary because they're cleaning up the bay now," Murphy said. "Anything out there needs to have a permit."
The Department of Lands Coeur d'Alene Office has received a hefty stack of supportive letters from Idaho and Washington residents who rely on Murphy's dock storage services.
"The dock is always returned in good condition, unlike our experiences of years ago with other dock storage companies," wrote J.C. Schindler of Coeur d'Alene. "If we are unable to store the dock with Murphy, we have virtually no other reliable options."
Even the Osprey Protective Association, a nonprofit aimed at preserving Cougar Bay wildlife, supports the storage.
"It wouldn't harm anything at all," said member Ed Haglund. "And Skip is willing to work with us. Our organization and him and his marine equipment, we can fix it up and have it so everybody can enjoy it out there."
The Department of Lands will collect public testimony at the hearing, scheduled for 6 tonight at the department's Coeur d'Alene office at 3258 West Industrial Loop. The agency will make a decision within 30 days of the hearing.