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The gravel bar just below these anglers has been permitted to become a new, temporary boat launch just north of the Stevensville bridge.

Perry Backus

STEVENSVILLE — A new boat launch near the Stevensville bridge moved closer to reality late Friday after the town received a one-year permit to construct the temporary fishing access site.

An elated Mayor Jim Crews said late Friday that he had just received the permit from Brian Wilkinson, the Ravalli County floodplain manager, and that he expects construction of the boat launch to begin on Monday. It’s possible the project could be completed by mid-week.

“I have to go back and sit down with the (road) supervisor to get it scheduled, but I would like to see the work done by the middle of the week,” Crews said. “That doesn’t mean it’s going to happen, but I would like to see it happen.”

The permit for the new site, about 300 yards downstream from the bridge, comes almost two months after Roy Capp installed barriers on his property adjacent to the bridge on the east river bank. Capp had said he was concerned with liability issues involving people launching boats and removing them from his property, and after years of use it was off-limits to the public.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks proposed a new fishing access site on public lands across the river from Capp’s property, but that will take at least a year. Meanwhile, boaters were trying to wrestle their vessels up the steep river bank, or floating other stretches and avoiding the popular area completely.

Crews proposed the new site at the town’s River Park, but needed to have the floodplain permit from the county. He wants to widen an existing foot path only enough that a vehicle and boat trailer can pull in and back into the water. Parking would be in the existing parking area.

But Capp, who didn’t return a phone call late Friday, resisted the new plan, filing objections with Wilkinson over the potential that the dirt work would cause his adjacent property to flood and the river bank to erode. He also was concerned about additional vehicular traffic spreading noxious weeds, and that the site didn’t have adequate bathroom facilities.

He added in his written comments that there is pre-existing litigation on another project involving the town of Stevensville and repairs for damage to his property that remain unresolved.

“This is a credibility crisis from the town of Stevensville and I do not believe the mayor’s assertions that the site will be held to rigorous inspections,” Capp wrote. “The town of Stevensville has failed to enforce even the most basic of violations in the park area.”

Crews said he “wrote a 10-page dissertation back” to try to ease Capp’s concerns, and the permit includes eight pages of findings and conditions he must comply with to go ahead with the project.

“We are working with all of the people who are involved to keep them informed and to answer all of their concerns,” Crews said. “We have had a lot of people help out on this project, and I really appreciate that.

“I’m pretty tickled that we have the permit. Now we can move forward.”

Wilkinson was out of the office Friday afternoon and couldn’t be reached for comment.

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