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Lakefront homeowners battle state over shoreline dispute

The nonprofit association Save Our Shores Donner Lake is taking a California agency to court over a land dispute. The association's lawsuit against the State Lands Commission argues that Donner Lake is not navigable and the high water mark recognized by the state is not in the correct location.

The lawsuit concerns control of the private docks placed by the homeowners. The Public Trust Doctrine grants the state sovereignty over navigable waters and shorelands even if private owners have an overlapping claim. California has owned the lake bed of Donner since acquiring statehood in 1850, and its land claim extends to the high water mark around the lake.

Local landowners insist that the high water mark cited by the state is incorrect. Save Our Shores also cites the non-navigability of the lake as an additional reason to protest the government's control of the land. A spokesperson for the commission did not wish to comment on the pending litigation.

When a party becomes involved in a homeowner dispute such as this situation, an attorney could provide guidance. An attorney might have the resources to research the historical agreements, homeowners' association rules and zoning that have governed the land use prior to the conflict. Experts, such as a surveyor, could be brought in by the attorney to produce a report that precisely determines land boundaries. When this information supports the client's position, the attorney could seek to resolve the dispute through negotiations. If they prove fruitless, taking the matter to court might be the next step.

Source: Sierra Sun, "Donner Lake homeowners sue California State Lands Commission", Amanda Rhoades, Feb. 7, 2017

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