Tremain Albright and Adarah Dancer's $14,000 tree house in Bonners Ferry is no more. On Thursday, a contractor employed by the city removed the landmark that has been the subject of so much discussion and emotion both locally and across the state.
The tree house garnered national attention a few months ago after investigators from the Army Corps of Engineers determined that it posed a risk to a levee along the Kootenai River despite having determined that it was not a danger just five years earlier. The corps said the tree house could topple and damage the levee.
The possible removal of the tree house generated publicity about the rights of an individual to exercise some control over his land versus the public sector concern for public safety and, therefore, its right to order the structure destroyed.
A press release from Bonners Ferry Mayor David Anderson characterized the removal as "the right action to protect the safety of our citizens" even as it acknowledged "the tree house builder's affection for their creation."
Albright says in 2007 he received a variance from the corps after doing some rock work to shore up the project. He thought this would settle the matter, but after the corps came back to inspect the levees in 2012, he says he was told it was no longer sufficient.
David Sims, assistant administrator for Bonners Ferry told IdahoReporter.com in July that the corps has become "a lot more aggressive" in recent years regarding enforcement, thus the determination that the tree house was now a problem.
In June, the tree house was given a death sentence by the corps. But in a surprising turn of events, the city initiated a property survey and determined that the tree house was partially on city-owned property, not on Albright's private property as originally believed.
That delayed any removal of the tree house until it could be determined exactly who had domain over the property where the tree house was located.
Initially, the city gave Albright and Dancer until July 15 to remove items from the tree house and it scheduled the structure's removal for Aug. 1. The removal was delayed because of high river levels.
Although the relationship between the city and the corps is technically voluntary, according to Sims, failing to abide by the corps' standards for the levees, which the mayor described as "dynamic" and "improved over time," would put at risk the "hundreds of thousands of dollars of levee work" that the corps provides to the city.
The funding for 2012 to involves some $160,000 worth of levee repairs scheduled for this year. The corps currently covers 80 percent of the cost.
According to an article in the Bonner County Daily Bee, a statement was released by Dancer, shortly before the removal of the tree house.
"These three beautiful majestic healthy cottonwood trees are being cut down for whatever reason man has decided it is important. It is not of their doing. They are just being trees doing their 'tree thing' and they have created a natural sanctuary of peace for us that money cannot buy. We thank them for their many decades of service, especially for the one they have given us, personally. Although it is against our choice, Tremain and I thank you for giving thought and respect to the job you are about to do."
Albright does not have a listed phone number and was unavailable for comment. "I still feel like this is just an action of big government," he said in one of the published media accounts earlier this summer.
Note: Tree house photo courtesy of the city of Bonners Ferry.
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