WESTPORT — The idea for a toll bridge crossing the mouth of Grays Harbor, going from Westport to Ocean Shores, which came up recently before the City of Westport, comes from William D. Stute, who calls himself the executive trustee of the Speake Federal Land Reservation and claims ownership of 54.4 square miles of most of the South Beach area.
He’s consistently sending bills to the city of Westport, saying that city officials are trespassing and has filed lawsuits against the city, state and other local governments, insisting he owns their land based on a descendant’s original land claim.
“We have a long history with him,” Westport City Attorney Wayne Hagen said Thursday. “He has attempted to sue the City of Westport, among other people, claiming ownership in and around the city and those claims have been rebuffed. He has no claim. We do not recognize nor does any other government recognize his authority to manage these lands.”
News on the proposed bridge made headlines across the Associated Press earlier this week when the Westport City Council declined to participate in the project.
Stute had written a letter to Westport envisioning a bridge from Ocean Shores to Westport and charging a $3 toll, where he would offer a nickel from each toll to the City of Westport should they become a partner.
City Administrator Randy Lewis wrote back to Stute on Wednesday saying the Westport City Council had decided not to participate.
But Hagen said if a consultant with deep pockets really did want to consider a bridge across the mouth of Grays Harbor, the city very well would seriously consider the concept. In this case, the rebuff was more about Stute than the actual bridge idea.
Stute told The Daily World on Thursday that there really is no firm bridge project in place with a formal design and concept, beyond the simple idea of a four-mile long bridge that would elevate high enough for ship traffic to go underneath it.
He said he’s also floated the idea to build a second bridge across Willapa Harbor from Long Beach to North Cove, as well. He’s sent letters to the cities of Ocean Shores and Westport, as well as Grays Harbor County, Pacific County, the Shoalwater Nation, the Chinooks and the Quinaults seeking support.
In 2004, he filed a federal lawsuit claiming ownership of 54.4 square miles of the South Beach area from Grayland to Westport, which he says was owned by his ancestor Thompson Barker Speake, who settled on the property in 1850. A U.S. District Court judge dismissed that lawsuit.
Stute said much of the funding for a bridge would come from a lands-rights lawsuit he says he and other descendants of the original South Beach homesteaders filed in “common law court” against the State of Washington.
But Stute claims the U.S. Constitution allows him to file lawsuits in common law court and then file judgments against the parties. Besides implementing the lawsuit, Stute said he also was the presiding judge that issued the judgment against the state and the city.
“At some point, the state will pay me my money and then I’ll put people to work by building this bridge,” Stute said. “Once I get my land, I’ll cut everyone’s property taxes in half.”
Hagen calls the whole thing nonsense. He says there is no such thing as common law court and says, despite receiving consistent bills from Stute and orders for the city to get off his land, the city has largely ignored the man.
“This has been going on for years,” Hagen said.
In 2000, Grays Harbor Sheriff’s deputies and Westport Police investigated Stute and his wife and raided their home after allegations surfaced that Stute was luring underage runaways to his home and abusing them as a part of a network involved in sexual bondage.
No criminal charges were ever filed, mainly because some of the witnesses were unwilling to testify, the Grays Harbor Prosecutor’s Office told The Daily World for an article published in 2004. But later, the Department of Social & Health Services did remove two teens from the home. Stute filed a federal lawsuit in 2004, claiming his rights were violated, but a U.S. District Court judge dismissed the lawsuit.