GEARHART - The new water system in Gearhart was getting the city in trouble, with a possible lawsuit looming. The city had accidentally extended the bridge to the proposed site for the water storage facility onto private property. Owner Marie Smith was unhappy and had the option to sue.

Now the city has a solution, City Manager Dennis McNally said. Officials are picking a different site, removing the bridge if necessary, and putting everything "back the way it was, or better," on Smith's property.

Gearhart is in negotiations to buy Weyerhaeuser property less than a quarter of a mile from the previous site for the water tank, McNally said. He does not know how much the purchase will cost, but said Weyerhaeuser is usually realistic on land prices. The new site is off Salminen Road and no bridges would need to be built to get to it, McNally said.

Gearhart is still under a stop-work order for the project after the footings for the bridge were poured without the correct permit. McNally said the state building code did not require a permit for bridge footings, and that he was unaware at the time that Clatsop County did require a permit. As soon as the land is purchased, McNally said the city will continue getting the necessary permits for building the tank, the water treatment plant and the wells for an independent water system.

The water rights permit is under initial review before being sent to the Salem Water Resources Department, and McNally said there may be a formal response from Salem in four to six weeks. "It's moving through the system," he said.