Court orders Mill Bay RV Park owners to pay $1.4 million in long-running legal dispute

The former site of Mill Bay RV Park, closed in September 2020 after legal action involving operators, Colville Confederated Tribes members, and the U.S. government.

MANSON — A federal judge has ordered the former occupants of the Mill Bay RV Resort to pay $1.4 million in damages to the U.S. government, for illegally occupying land held by members of the Colville Confederated Tribes.

The May 17 ruling by U.S. District Judge Rosanna Malouf Peterson of Spokane was the latest in a lengthy dispute between 173 RV resort clubmembers on one side, and the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Colville tribal government and the individual tribal members who hold the land allotment on the shore of Mill Bay.

The 24-acre park has been vacant since September, when Peterson ordered RV clubmembers to remove their property from the grounds.

The resort was created in a 1984 agreement between lease owner William Wapato Evans Jr., the BIA and Interior Department, but when Evans sought to renew the option on the land with BIA for a second 25-year term, the agency did not act on the request. Later, courts ruled that all Native rights-holders to the land had not been properly notified of the renewal, so Evans’ attempt was void and the master lease had actually expired in 2009.

RV resort members, who had believed the lease was properly renewed until 2034 and had paid for lots on the land since 2009, sued to retain their access, but Peterson’s July 2020 order evicted them.

Peterson’s May 17 ruling says the RV Park members now must pay $1.4 million in damages for trespassing since the 2009 lease expiration. The Mill Bay members are asking for a review by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.