Government Owned Land

Canyon Lake, which was impounded in 1968, provides a source of recreation for approximately than 1.5 million visitors annually. One of the most scenic lakes in Texas, Canyon Lake has 8,230 acres of water at normal pool and approximately 80 miles of shoreline. As stewards of this project, the Corps of Engineers must use sound management practices to protect and preserve the project resources for future generations, while providing quality recreation opportunities for today's visitors. Consideration must also be given to possible conflicts of use between the general public and the owners of private property adjacent to the project.

 

Background

Construction on Canyon Project began in 1958. At that time, the general attitude regarding Government land acquisition was to keep as much land in private ownership as possible. Therefore, a minimum amount of land was purchased for the purpose of lake operation. This action resulted in a relatively small area of public land between the shoreline and private interest. During the ensuing forty years to 1998, approximately 49 housing developments have been constructed adjacent to public lands. As these housing developments grew and became more populated, more and more adjacent landowners began using public land as an extension of their private property.

 

Encroachments

What is an encroachment? An encroachment is the placement, construction, or continued existence of a permanent or semi-permanent structure or other privately owned property on, under, in, or over publicly owned lands or lands held in flowage easement without prior written permission of the Corps' District Engineer or his representative.

Examples of encroachments are, but not limited to: buildings of any type; roads; septic tanks;, fences; any other actions that would alter public lands. When discussing encroachments, we must also consider the following also: destruction, injury, defacement, removal or any alteration of public property with out expressed written consent from the District Commaner or his local appointed representative. This includes any changes to natural formations, historical and archaeological features, and vegetative resources which exist on the affected areas.

 

Why Worry about Encroachments?

Why should an adjacent landowner worry about encroachments? Here are a few reasons for not using public land for private exclusive use:

(1) Incurring the expense to remove an item of encroachment from Government property and restore the disturbed site to original condition.

(2) Having the encroachment recorded on your property deed. Known encroachments are documented by the Corps and recorded in the county courthouse with the property deeds. Most lending institutions will not proceed with a loan if such a condition exists. Many adjacent landowners wishing to sell their home and property with a "cloud" on their deeds are usually disappointed with delays and additional cost.

(3) Being subject to a citation. In cases when a landowner will not voluntarily remove an encroachment, or refuses to take any action to resolve an encroachment, a citation may be issued. The citation could involve a monetary fine and/or appearance before a federal magistrate. 

 

Preventing an Encroachment

Before you Buy or Build:

Here are a few tips we suggest to make your property search and future purchase reliable and accurate.

Obtain the Following will help in you property search or purchase:

  • Abstract of your property:    It needs to go back to at least the feedral government making its purchase.
  • Certified Survey Plat:   A Registered Professional Surveyor can provide this document. It should include elevations of the base of the existing structures. This plat should have been extracted from the records in the abstract. Do NOT depend on county plat records alone.
  • Attorney's Title Opinion or Title Insurance:    This provides extra protection if you did everything else correct.
  • Warranty Deed: from an individual if possible. (However, the U.S. Government can legally only issue Quitclaim Deeds).

If you have any questions about these topics, call the local Corps of Engineers Lake Office any weekday during regular business hours at 830-964-3341.

Corps of Engineers Fee Boundary Monuments are considered Public property and are protected under Title 36, 327.14.a

"Destruction, injury, defacement, removal or any alteration of public property including, but not limited to, developed facilities, natural formations, mineral deposits, historical and archaeological features, paleontological resources, boundary monumentation or markers and vegetative growth, is prohibited except when in accordance with written permission of the District Commander."

How Are Encroachments Discovered?

  • Corps Boundary Surveillance
  • Buyer's Mortgage Surveys
  • Buyer's Certified Survey Plats
  • Abstract Updates
  • (Through Attorney's Title Opinion)
  • Flood Pool Impoundments

If You Have an Encroachment

Should you own property next to Canyon Lake and have items of personal property that are encroaching upon public lands, contact the Canyon Lake Project Office. We recommend you make an appointment to meet with a member of the ranger staff. The ranger will meet with you on site, discuss the options available and work with you to take action necessary to resolve the encroachment. In some instances, these meetings will prevent a landowner from making a costly and time-consuming mistake. 

 

Flowage Easements?

A flowage easement or flood easement is purchased from the adjoining landowner to allow the U.S. to periodically flood the property when necessary.

This type of easement is to restrict the building of structures on that easement which could be damaged during flood impoundments.  Even though the land itself is in private ownership, these restrictions are necessary to protect the taxpayers and the U.S. Government against flood damage claims.

At Canyon Lake, the upper guide contour defining the top of this flood easement varies as you go around the lake. Many areas it is set at the elevation of 948' msl. (above mean sea level). Some areas it may be lower or higher. Do a property adstract to find the location of easement on your property. Don't assume it is standard around the whole lake.

Encroachments often occur on flowage easements because structures are restricted or prohibited.

Restrictions on U.S. Government Land & Easements

Structures that are strictly prohibited are:

  • Houses, cabins, 5th wheels, mobile homes, RVs, trailer homes, boat houses or any other structure used for human habitation.
  • Adding onto the site any fill materials from outside source or removing materials from the site.
  • Septic tanks or septic lateral drainage fields or systems. (State Health Dept regulations restrict sewage and water systems to be located fully above a specified elevation. These regulations may be obtained from the Comal County Sanitation, Environmental Health Office, 195 David Jonas Drive, New Braunfels, TX  78132.

Many restricted structures may be approved if permission to build is requested in advance. No construction is allowed on federal property, only on your private property. Each requires an Easement Construction Permit issued prior to the planning stage of development and prior to construction. Some examples are:

  • Decks/gazebos
  • Driveways
  • Utilities, Ditches/channels
  • Tennis courts, Swimming pools
  • Fences, Outbuildings
  • Animal housing/barns

If such structures are desired by a landowner, he/she should provide a written request to the local Corps Lake Office. If the request is approved, a "Consent to Easement Structures" approval permit will be issued from Fort Worth District Engineer or his authorized representative.  However, this action can be accomplished only after a positive review of the hydrological effect of the requested items might have on the capacity of reservoir storage.

Questions

If you have questions about the location of the U.S. Government property boundary, contact the Canyon Lake Project Office at 830/964-3341. A field visit appointment with a Corps ranger can be scheduled to assist you in locating the boundary or in answering any other questions you may have concerning encroachments and our permit program.

Written inquiries may be addressed to:

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Attention: Rangers: Realty Staff

601 C.O.E. Road

Canyon Lake, TX 78133-4129

Our objective is to maintain a clean, uncluttered and beautiful shoreline at Canyon Lake for your present enjoyment and for future generations to come.  Your help and cooperation is essential for us to achieve this goal.