Type to search

Lake & Rivers Local News

USACE Warns Property Owners About Encroachments, Says Nobody Actually Owns ‘Lakefront Property’

Image of encroachment courtesy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Canyon Lake office.

Homeowners and homebuyers, builders, real estate agents and property owners are all being asked by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to “stop the spread” of illegal encroachments on federal property ringing all 82 miles of Canyon Lake’s shoreline.

Because the entire shoreline is owned and administered by USACE, no one actually owns “lakefront property.”

This means that nobody can legally build any structures like stairs, boat ramps, sundecks, patios, or floating docks along the shoreline below their property, said USACE Ranger Philip Anderson, who works in the Canyon Lake office at Overlook Park.

He’s frustrated that people who go out of their way to get building plans and easements approved by county and homeowner groups don’t seem to care at all about crossing onto federal property. Canyon Reservoir was built in the late 50s/early 60s to provide flood-damage reduction to the Guadalupe River Basin below Canyon Lake and to manage the natural land and water resources.

Anderson said if he spent every day out on the water with binoculars, scouring Canyon Lake’s shoreline for encroachments, it wouldn’t be enough. As the area grows and property changes hands, new structures are popping up around the lake even as older ones are still being discovered.

“We cannot keep up with this,” he said. “We’ll catch one then there’s a dozen more. The pace is definitely accelerating and we want to bring awareness to the adjacent landowners that this type of activity is not allowed. They’re just building on property that doesn’t belong to them.”

This activity couldn’t come at a worse time. The Corps already operates on a tight budget, but like the rest of the Canyon Lake area was overwhelmed this summer by recreationalists who flocked to the area in record numbers in search of sunlight and outdoor recreation during the worst of the COVID-19 restrictions.

Trash overflowed around the lake and USACE had to threaten shutdowns after environmentally sensitive areas of its parks were trampled by visitors.

“I know my time is better spent managing parks and working on service contracts that manage high volumes of tourism than grappling with the legal issues associated with resolving encroachments,” Anderson said. “It’s a very selfish thing to do. The precious labor that the Corps spends dealing with illegal encroachments takes away from our ability to manage the high-density public parks, thereby impacting the recreational experience of the general public.”

Still, the federal government eventually will catch up with those violators and removing encroachments (see above) like cement stairs and restoring the land to its original condition can cost upwards of $100,000, depending on the amount of the encroachment.

Anderson went on to explain the Corps can place a “cloud on title” by filing a “notice of encroachment,” which will make it very difficult to sell the property.

Activities which are prohibited on federal property include:

  1. Any type of private or exclusive use.
  2. Placing unattended personal property of any kind on public land for more than 24 hours.
  3. Constructing buildings, roads, improved pathways, or any other facilities on public lands.
  4. Restricting public access either verbally, by posting signs, or by any other method.
  5. Operating motorized vehicles except when operated on paved roadways and at authorized access points.
  6. Disposing of any kind of garbage, debris, or other refuse on public land.
  7. Building fires on public land, except in authorized locations.
  8. Gathering firewood.
  9. Allowing horses, cattle, or other livestock on public land, except by lease from the government or as otherwise permitted.
  10. Destroying, altering, or removing any facility, vegetation, or natural, historical or cultural features. Removing trees or shrubs to enhance one’s view of the lake is illegal.
  11. Using fireworks.
  12. Camping, except in designated camping areas.

For more information, click here.

Or, contact USACE’s Canyon Lake office at 830-964-3341.


Please review our commenting rules before submitting a post.


  1. Lisa November 23, 2020

    If you bought property with that lake view, you know exactly where your property ends and where the federal property begins. Let’s not pretend these owners have no idea about the property they purchased. They still have lake access and with that view….they will still pay higher taxes.

  2. Reynaldo Martinez November 22, 2020

    Paradise Lost?

    Unfortunately federal law supersedes state law. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. One must remember the basic principle in life, you never really own the land you merely possess it for a short time. Unfortunately these days are getting shorter, so look up into the skies and if you see a lot of mapingg drones, smile you’re on Candid Camera and so are your boat docks and your gazebos. Funny how just one phone call placed to the right agency at the right time can cause such a ruckus.
    Is this a case of Murphy’s Law? or Karma? I’ll gotten gains never last, When unbridled greed blinds the eye. Behold the taxman cometh!

  3. Jennifer Taylor November 21, 2020

    The information is most likely in the ‘CC&R’s-the legal documents you receive when you buy your property/home. You can get them ahead of closing to read before your actual closing date so you are informed before you sign the promulgated title company forms agreeing that you understand you’ll be paying 3-5 times the price of ypur home if you take out a mortgage on it. If memory serves, it is approximately 820 ft.

  4. Theresa Koepp November 21, 2020

    This seems a bit ridiculous to me. No paths or stairs? You can’t leave a table or chairs near the water to just sit and enjoy the space? These people specifically bought this property for access to the water. That is what makes the land so expensive. Everyone that owns property ‘near’ the lake needs to take a copy of this notice to the appraisal district and demand lower values and taxes. If this encroachment is such a big problem you would think the HOAs and the county would know about it. Then when someone wants to add something to government property the authorities should tell these people it’s not allowed before they shell out a lot of money and then are told to remove it. If they have sought permission and it has been granted then whoever granted permission should be liable not only for the expense of putting this in but also the expense of removing it. I don’t know about you but I would find it difficult to figure out where exactly this magic line is that I can’t go past without someone getting uptight. Maybe the USACE would better use their time properly marking this magic line than going after people after the fact.

    1. Bette November 22, 2020

      It’s called a SURVEY. Anyone buying land, especially those adjacent to USACE property, should have had a survey done at time of purchase to know exactly where their property ends. And shame on sellers, Realtors, title companies etc. for not mentioning anything about restrictions concerning land adjacent to government property.

    2. Leslie November 23, 2020

      Boundaries are important and created for a reason. I have every right to walk on Core property. I kayak and like to rest on the shoreline. No trespassing signs are everywhere. It does not belong to residents and I would appreciate the laws being enforced.

  5. Jim Salling November 21, 2020

    What restrictions can Cranes Mill Marina impose on the property surrounding the cove. They tell everyone they own that property and won’t even allow you to walk the shoreline. Same with Cranes Mill Park.

  6. Karen November 21, 2020

    I hope the costs of restoring the land and “taking down” whatever has been built on the USACE property are charged to each specific landowner. Not me, the taxpayer.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *