| Courts |

At Lake Texoma, A Man, His Boat House, and a Decades-Long Fight With the Corps of Engineers

Keep Dallas Observer Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Dallas and help keep the future of Dallas Observer free.

Charles Paternostro was 14 when, in the mid-'50s, his father purchased an acre of land on a five-story cliff overlooking Lake Texoma and built a modest, three-bedroom home. The family lived in Dallas full-time but spent their weekends at the reservoir, boating and swimming and fishing.

After his parents died, Pasternostro, an attorney, and his brothers inherited the place and quickly became, as he describes it, a thorn in the side of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

"When my brother was alive several years ago, he was a lawyer too, and ... they would have such ridiculous rules, and we would challenge those rules," he said.

There was, then, a long-standing history of bad blood between Paternostro and the corps when he asked for permission to repair the boathouse his father had built on the lake. A few month later, lake manager Joe Custer sent a crew out to inspect the structure. A lot of work would need to be done, he determined. That meant the boat house and attached dock would and would have to go. If he refused, he faced up to a $5,000 fine and six months in jail.

All this was part of a plan, Paternostro says, to drive the lawyer off the lake, something Custer has been angling at for years.

"This Joe Custer, he's a hot dog," Paternostro said. "He thinks he's the king of the roost."

But Paternostro was having none of it. He has, by his count, filed four previous lawsuits against the corps, one after the agency ordered him to remove a refrigerator from his boat house because it was a sign of habitation. Another time, the corps was ultimately successful when it told him to remove water slides and diving boards from the edge of the lake. He's tried unsuccessfully to bring a class-action suit with his fellow boat house owners.

Last week, Paternostro sued again. He claims the corps has overstepped its authority by effectively preventing him from repairing his dock. He's seeking an injunction to prevent the agency from taking it down, as he says they plan to do.

I've left messages with the corps' Tulsa District public affairs office and with Custer.

Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.