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Lake access floats to city council agenda

Topic will be taken up Tuesday evening
by: vern uyetake Oswego Lake in Lake Oswego has long been maintained as exempt from state waterway ownership.

The Lake Oswego City Council has added a controversial topic to its Tuesday meeting agenda: Whether to take a position on access to Oswego Lake.

Mayor Jack Hoffman said Monday that council members have been discussing by email whether to make a formal statement and, if they do, what that statement should be.

The council could decide to take a stand advocating for opening access to the general public or for keeping the status quo. It could also try to direct the planning commission to back off a community discussion of the issue; planning commissioners are scheduled to hold a public hearing on the matter next week.

The lake and connected canal areas have long been controlled by the Lake Oswego Corporation, which represents lakefront property owners. Many other Lake Oswego residents have access to the water through easements to lakefront boat docks and swim parks or at a city-run swim park.

Hoffman said he hopes to discuss some related issues in public, although the council could choose to keep those discussions private under rules allowing for closed meetings on potential litigation and real estate transactions.

The city has received letters from a Lewis and Clark law professor and the Lewis and Clark-based Northwest Environmental Defense Center suggesting the lake is owned by the state and that city policies shouldn't prevent its public use.

'If there is litigation, and I don't know if there will be … I'd be concerned the city might be dragged into it,' Hoffman said. 'At this point, I don't anticipate the city being a primary defendant if someone were to file a lawsuit asserting the waters of Oswego Lake were public.'

The council meeting begins at 6 p.m. Tuesday at city hall, 380 A Ave. in Lake Oswego.