In Camaslakeland v. Department of Ecology, the Shoreline Hearings Board altered the status quo that has been in place since the 1970s. In an order dated March 21, 2012, the Hearings Board ruled that a pond connected by a ditch to Round Lake in Camas, and used by the local mill for its operations, was not a shoreline of the state, even though Clark County and the City of Camas had treated it as such for a long time because it was viewed as part of Round Lake. This ruling is significant for our client, which operates Camas Produce on its property adjacent to Mill Pond. The result of the ruling means that the land is no longer subject to a 200-foot shoreline setback from the ordinary high water mark of Mill Pond. If the Department of Ecology does not file an appeal in superior court, the owners of Camas Produce can now expand their store and build other improvements closer to Mill Pond.

The Hearings Board ruled that Mill Pond cannot be regulated under the Shoreline Management Act because (1) the pond was not listed as a regulated water body in Ecology’s regulations and the local shoreline master programs; (2) on its own, Mill Pond is less than 20 acres (the minimum acreage necessary to be regulated); and (3) it is distinct from and has a different function than Round Lake.

The lesson learned in this case is this: question authority. Even if a city or county has regulations on its books applicable to property, they are not necessarily valid.