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Lake and Beach Management Districts

This page provides a general overview of lake and beach management districts in Washington State, including relevant statutes, formation procedures, and examples of local provisions.


Chapter 36.61 RCW authorizes cities, towns, and counties to create local improvement districts for lake improvements and beach management. The purpose of the lake and beach management district legislation is to establish a governmental mechanism by which property owners can embark on a program of lake or beach improvement and maintenance for their and the general public's benefit, health, and welfare.

A lake or beach management district may assess property, issue bonds, control or remove aquatic plants and vegetation, improve water quality, control water levels, treat and divert storm water, control agricultural waste, study lake or marine water quality problems and develop solutions, clean and maintain ditches and streams entering the lake or marine waters or leaving the lake, and monitor air quality.

Statutes and Regulations

  • Ch. 36.61 RCW — Authority for counties to establish lake and beach management districts
  • RCW 35.21.403 — Authority for cities and towns to establish lake and beach management districts as provided in Ch. 36.61 RCW
  • WAC 173-26-231 — Offers provisions for shoreline modifications, see (3). Provisions for specific shoreline modifications includes the following: If beach erosion is threatening existing development, local governments should adopt master program provisions for a beach management district or other institutional mechanism to provide comprehensive mitigation for the adverse impacts of erosion control measures.

Formation of Lake or Beach Management Districts

A lake or beach management district may be initiated by a resolution of intention by any city, town, or county legislative authority or by a petition signed by 10 landowners or the owners of at least 20% of the acreage of the proposed district. The resolution of intention designates the number of the proposed district and sets a hearing date (RCW 36.61.030).

Hearing on Formation of a District

A hearing must be scheduled at least 30 days and no more than 90 days after the adoption of a resolution unless an emergency exists. Notice of hearing is to be:

  • Published at least twice in newspaper of general circulation in the proposed district; 
  • Mailed to landowners in the proposed district; and
  • Mailed to the Washington State Departments of Fish and Wildlife, Natural Resources, and Ecology.

If the original proposal is altered, an amended resolution of intention must be passed and property owners given a new notice (RCW 36.61.030-.060).

Election to Form a District

The legislative authority adopts a resolution submitting the question of creating the lake or beach management district to owners of land within the proposed district. The election is by mail-in ballot to the landowners. Votes are weighted based on the estimated special assessments, or one vote per dollar of estimated assessment (RCW 36.61.070-.090).

Passage of Proposition to Form a District

Passage of the proposition requires a simple majority of votes cast. If the proposition is approved, the legislative authority then adopts an ordinance creating the lake or beach management district. Notice of a district's creation must be published within 10 days of adoption of this ordinance (RCW 36.61.090 - .100).

Finance — Special Assessment Roll Procedures

An election is required if assessments exceed 110% of that estimated in the resolution initiating the district. A proposed special assessment roll is prepared, and a hearing is held on the assessment roll. The legislative authority must confirm and approve a special assessment roll by adoption of a resolution.

The legislative authority may provide by ordinance for a committee of the legislative body or an officer (hearing examiner) to hear objections, act as a board of equalization, and make recommendations to the full legislative authority without a hearing on the assessment roll. If special assessment roll is amended to raise any special assessment or to include omitted property, a new public hearing must be held.

Any objections must be made in writing and filed with the governing body prior to the public hearing. If authority is delegated, the process for appeals to the legislative body must be provided by ordinance. An appeal to courts must be made within 10 days after notice of resolution confirming the assessment roll has been published (RCW 36.61.115 - .250). As an example, Whatcom County Code Ch. 2.100 establishes an objection process for challenging lake management district rates and charges or special assessments.

Governance of Lake or Beach Management Districts

While no governance is statutorily specified, many jurisdictions have chosen to set up advisory committees. See examples below.

Some local governments also offer information and resources to constituent groups to encourage stewardship of natural areas. See examples below. 

Examples of Local Ordinances and Resolutions

  • Federal Way
    • Lake Management Districts — Provides an overview and background on the lake management districts for North Lake and for Steel Lake. Includes links to annual reports and reports on the status of aquatic vegetation and water quality for each site. 
    • Ordinance No. 13-744 (2013) — Renews the Lake Management District No. 1 (LMD No. 1) for aquatic vegetation management, community education, and related projects at Steel Lake, and calls for a public hearing on the assessment roll for the district. Sets a 10-year time for district and includes a map of district.
    • Ordinance No. 13-751 (2013) — Establishes the time of payment, interest, and penalties to be imposed on delinquent annual special assessment for LMD No. 1 and amends Ord. No. 13-744 deleting the automatic inflation increase.
    • Resolution No. 13-631 (2013) — Renews LMD No. 1 and calls for a vote by affected property owners on the proposed renewal. Includes the SLMD 2014-2023 plan, petition from property owners to renew LMD No. 1, area map, and assessment roll of property owners.
  • Mason County
  • Sammamish
    • Ordinance No. 02016-414 (2016) — Renews Lake Management District No. 1 in the Beaver Lake Watershed in order to monitor water quality, provide community education, and conduct other projects. District will last 10 years, with properties divided into two assessment zones. Includes map of area.
    • Resolution No. R2016-669 (2016) — Forms Lake Management District No. 1 in the Beaver Lake Watershed, setting a 10-year time for the district. Includes proposal and district map.
  • Stevens County Ordinance No. 2018-05 (2018) — Creates new Loon Lake management district for a five-year term, replacing expiring district, for control of Eurasian milfoil and other noxious aquatic weeds; includes resolutions of intent, calling for election, establishing assessment rates, and creating advisory committee.

Recommended Resources

  • North American Lake Management Society — Forges partnerships among citizens, scientists, and professionals to foster the management and protection of lakes.
  • Washington State Lake Protection Association — Supports lake and watershed protection, restoration, and management programs; provides educational resources and information about lake and watershed management; and fosters communication and coordination among lake and watershed stakeholders.

Last Modified: January 13, 2023