Olympia houseboat owners question timing of eviction notices

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Houseboat owners at two Olympia marinas are questioning the timing of their evictions from their moorage.

The Department of Natural Resources has notified the operators of the West Bay Marina and Martin Marina about a possible default on their leases because of the allowance of "floating homes."

In turn, the operators are giving owners of 14 floating homes a 60 day warning to move the homes or face eviction.

The state says the floating homes don't qualify as vessels under state law and therefore are not permitted to dock in state waters. But many of the floating homes have been moored in the marinas for years without facing the fear of eviction.

"Harbor areas are reserved for commerce and navigation but a floating home is neither of those," said DNR spokesman Peter Lavallee.

But the manager of West Bay Marina said the timing of DNR's notification may be part of a negotiation ploy.

Both marinas are in lease negotiations with the state.

"I believe it's part of the process of they and I negotiating a lease," said West Bay Marina General Manager Neil Falkenburg. "I had no other choice but to tell them they had to leave in order to comply with the state requirements."

Mike Auderer has lived on Sweet Pea, a well maintained 37-foot houseboat he built two years ago. It was even featured on 'Extreme Houseboats' on The Travel Channel.

"I can't move out in 60 days," said Auderer. "I'll have to tow it over to the boat yard, they'll have to hoist it out and put it in storage."

Auderer believes the evictions are part of the lease negotiations that have left him wondering if he'll really be forced to leave.

"They say it's a navigational issue, but the only thing navigating around me are kayaks," he said. "At low tide, it's two feet deep, you can't even put a boat here."