State eyeing public access for Tahuya Lake

There are battle lines being drawn under Lake Tahuyeh, but nobody’s sure where the lines should go just quite yet.

On one hand, the residents and property owners around the lake say it is privately owned and maintained. On the other hand, a representative of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife says the state might own the water and the fish in the water, so the lake should be accessible to the public. According to Terry Legg, western lands coordinator for Fish and Wildlife, the state is currently investigating the deeds of property owners around the lake to figure out who owns what.

What the state does own is about an acre of property on the lake and it is requesting money in next year’s state budget cycle to build a boat ramp to give the public access to the lake, Legg said. Legg could not remember the exact cost needed for the ramp, but guessed it was about $130,000.

While the plan is contingent upon funding, the property owners around the lake aren’t waiting for the state’s yes or no to come out against the plan.

The lake is nearly 200 acres and is about eight miles west of Bremerton.

Legg said historically, the state may have access to the waterway. In 1889, when Washington became a state, it was deemed that the state owns all navigable waterways, Legg said. All waterways were to be maintained and controlled by the Department of Natural Resources.

Residents maintain that Lake Tahuyeh wasn’t navigable in 1889, so they believe it should not be subject to that rule.

Bert Esau, president of the Tahuyeh Lake Community Club, outlined the history of the lake in an e-mail to the Reporter. “In 1953 Lake Tahuyeh was documented as a 26-acre peat bog lake with very little open water and no fish in it,” he wrote. The lake was surrounded by 84 acres of marsh until 1961.

In 1961, the state granted water rights and the residents built a dam to gather runoff to create a year-round recreational lake, Esau said.

“The TLCC owns the dam that impounded the water to form Lake Tahuyeh as we now know it,” Esau wrote. “As owners of the dam the state requires TLCC to maintain it and also pay for expensive spillway modifications. No state money has been spent on or for this lake.”

Esau also said the residents maintain a fish ladder and a Coho run. The residents’ goal is to offer designated conservancy areas, habitat areas, recreational areas and aquatic weed control.

Esau also expressed concern that if the lake is opened to public access, it may be a challenge for the residents to keep it clean. To emphasize his point, he said there are a number of lakes in the county that have been closed because of garbage or vandalism.

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