Instead of evicting Bainbridge Island's liveaboard boaters, the state Department of Natural Resources has given them a new lease on life. The agency has signed a 12-year lease with the City of Bainbridge Island to create an open-water marina with 16 resident boaters.
The Bainbridge Island City Council voted to sign the lease on Dec. 15, the day DNR had set for the liveaboards to leave. The vote came just hours after a farewell party that Eagle Harbor's final liveaboards held on the Wicca, a historic Bainbridge Island houseboat ("Flotilla of poor people protest eviction," RC, Dec. 8-14).
Citing cost concerns, the council in October abandoned a plan that could have accommodated 12 slips of open-water moorage. In addition to 12 buoys for liveaboards, the state required the city to install 36 more buoys for transient boaters.
On Dec. 3, the City Council wrote a letter asking DNR to waive the rules. The agency answered yes, setting the stage for an agreement after years of wrangling. The island's liveaboard community is more than 100 years old, but the state no longer allows over-water residences.
The lease would allow the liveaboards to rent open-water moorage from the city at $60 to $176 a month, including garbage and sewer.
Nearby homeowners complain that liveaboards foul the water and are essentially squatters on public land. On Dec. 10, a group called Bainbridge Citizens wrote a letter to DNR protesting its decision.
Before the open-water marina is a reality, the City of Bainbridge Island must still work out many details, including nailing down funds to install the buoys. And there's no guarantee remaining houseboats like the Wicca will get to stay.