Natural Resources Law
Washington Law Review
During this new decade, Americans will, and indeed must, become increasingly concerned about the preservation of open spaces and the maintenance of a habitable environment. The lack of adequate open space in metropolitan areas is already particularly disturbing. Despite years of planning and zoning, the few remaining open areas in American cities continue to succumb to developmental pressures. In some communities the existence of lakes constitutes an important exception to this history of failure. Lakes are natural open spaces and are more difficult to destroy, br encroach upon, than dry land areas, and, as such, they offer a special dimension of beauty, color, and recreational potential to metropolitan residents. But recently, even lakes have come to be damaged and destroyed, for population growth and investment potential have combined to attract the attention of developers, who are now commencing, with fills and buildings, to invade and diminish these natural open areas. To date the law has given little notice to this problem. In the past, lake law has been preoccupied with questions of consumptive use, and more recently with disputes between recreational users. Wide-spread filling and building over lake beds is still too recent a phenomenon for much case law to have developed; and, despite the quickening pace of such encroachments, and the increasing publicity given to the problem, urban planners and other officials have not yet taken the necessary remedial action. This lack of any articulated legal thinking on the topic, and our belief that regulation of lake surface invasions must begin soon, if it is ever to succeed, prompted us to investigate the problem. Here we will attempt to identify the more important issues and to suggest possible solutions.