SOMERS – A conservation group is celebrating a recent Montana Supreme Court ruling overturning approval for a controversial bridge on Flathead Lake, with hopes it will lead to a “course correction” for local planning.
The fight over the bridge to the private Dockstader Island on Flathead’s North Shore dates back to 2011 when Flathead County Commissioners approved permits for the 500 foot span from shore.
Landowner Jolene Dugan had convinced the county the bridge was needed to reach the island during high water.
The bridge’s completion, and county approval, sparked a legal fight lasting for years, with the Community Association for North Shore Conservation claiming the bridge was a violation of Montana’s Lakeshore Protection Act.
Flathead County District Court Judge Robert Allison ultimately ruled the bridge was built without a valid permit and Dugan appealed.
The Montana Supreme Court upheld Allison’s ruling earlier this month, saying the Community Association had “standing” to challenge the permit. The justices also faulted county commissioners for not considering the span’s visual impacts and concluding the bridge isn’t a “road.”
Community Association Co-Chair Dave Hadden calls the ruling a “huge victory” for future planning on Flathead Lake.
Reporting by Dennis Bragg for MTN News