Because I have had two questions within the week about tidelands, I am re-publishing an post I did last year on the subject:
I spent time this weekend with two different clients who are looking at waterfront property. One is very savvy about tideland ownership and the other was not. Why do you care about owning the tidelands if you buy a piece of waterfront property (and for that matter, did you realize that you do not automatically buy the tidelands with each piece)? For many reasons….Do you want to cultivate oysters or clams for your personal use? Do you want the ability to lease out your tidelands for income? Do you simply want to have control over what happens on your beach? All are good reasons for wanting to own tidelands.
Many waterfront properties in Thurston and Mason counties do NOT include the tidelands. And that is OK if you know what you are buying. Typically you can still gather plenty of shellfish from your beach for your family and friends without disturbing the actual tidelands. You can even seed sometimes, though larger scale cultivation will not be possible. The most important things to know will be: Who does own the tidelands if not you (the state, a shellfish company, an individual?) and what are they doing with them. Some cultivations are uglier than others: oyster bags on the beach dont look great, and geoduck tubes are also unsightly. Both are temporary while the baby oysters or geoducks grow large enough to live on their own.
I have piles of information to share on this topic, links and publications as well. Tidelands were granted to Washington when we became a state in 1889. The state began selling off tidelands, a practice it continued until 1971 when the Legislature prohibited further sales. Private ownership of tidelands and shorelands is limited to those parcels which were sold by the state prior to 1971.
Today 60% of tidelands in Washington State are privately owned. Allegations of the mighty Taylor Shellfish infringing upon state-owned tidelands were brought to light this summer. As a result, it was announced that Washington State Department of Natural Resources would undertake to inventory all state-owned tidelands and identify possible trespass situations (http://www.dnr.wa.gov/BusinessPermits/News/Pages/nr09_113.aspx). Will the result be that some folks who thought they owned their tidelands find out differently? Perhaps.
More interesting tideland bits:
1. American Indians are allowed to harvest from private tidelands (2nd class), a percentage of naturally occuring (not planted) shellfish.
2. The difference between 1st and 2nd class tidelands is not quality, it is distance to the city limits of an incorporated city.
3. Everyone has the right to use the surface of the waters. Period.
4. The state issues permits for buoys (sometimes) on state-owned tidelands as long as it does not interfere with boating traffic.
Any more information you would like, I can provide. I have spent a lot of time (and money!) learning about waterfront lands and the stewardship of them. See my link list to the right for more interesting links to waterfront resources.