Littoral rights

Last updated

In United States law, littoral rights are rights concerning properties that abut static water like an ocean, bay, delta, sea or lake, rather than a flowing river or stream (riparian). Littoral rights are usually concerned with the use and enjoyment of the shore. [1] , but also may include rights to use the water similar to riparian rights.

An owner whose property abuts tidal waters (i.e. oceanfront) owns the land to the mean low water line or 100 rods below mean high water, whichever is less. The land between low water and high water is reserved for the use of the public by state law and is regulated by the state. In certain states, the specific rights afforded under the doctrine of littoral rights may be spelled out by statute or case law. In Florida, for example, littoral rights encompass: "(1) the right to have access to the water; (2) the right to reasonably use the water; (3) the right to accretion and reliction; and (4) the right to the unobstructed view of the water". [2] It has been held by the courts of Florida that "littoral rights are private property rights that cannot be taken from upland owners without just compensation". [2]

In an 1836 speech on the floor of Congress, United States Representative Thomas L. Hamer of Ohio characterized "riparian and littoral rights" as being among the various rights created by the Constitution of the United States. [3]

In 2005, the Michigan Supreme Court overturned an appellate court's decision on lakeshore rights of owners adjacent to the Great lakes, that had equated wayward beach walking to trespassing. The Court said that pedestrians could walk along the beach, even though owners of property abutting the Great Lakes own that same land to the current water edge. [4]

Related Research Articles

In United States constitutional law, a regulatory taking is a situation in which a government regulation limits the uses of private property to such a degree that the regulation effectively deprives the property owners of economically reasonable use or value of their property to such an extent that it deprives them of utility or value of that property, even though the regulation does not formally divest them of title to it.

Freedom to roam A right of public access to land or bodies of water

The freedom to roam, or "everyman's right", is the general public's right to access certain public or privately owned land, lakes, and rivers for recreation and exercise. The right is sometimes called the right of public access to the wilderness or the "right to roam".

Riparian water rights is a system for allocating water among those who possess land along its path. It has its origins in English common law. Riparian water rights exist in many jurisdictions with a common law heritage, such as Canada, Australia, and states in the eastern United States.

Prior appropriation water rights is the legal doctrine that the first person to take a quantity of water from a water source for "beneficial use" has the right to continue to use that quantity of water for that purpose.

Water right in water law refers to the right of a user to use water from a water source, e.g., a river, stream, pond or source of groundwater. In areas with plentiful water and few users, such systems are generally not complicated or contentious. In other areas, especially arid areas where irrigation is practiced, such systems are often the source of conflict, both legal and physical. Some systems treat surface water and ground water in the same manner, while others use different principles for each.

Navigability body of water, such as a river, canal or lake, is navigable if it is deep, wide and slow enough for a vessel to pass or walk

A body of water, such as a river, canal or lake, is navigable if it is deep, wide and slow enough for a vessel to pass or walk. Preferably there are few obstructions such as rocks or trees to avoid. Bridges must have sufficient clearance. High water speed may make a channel unnavigable. Waters may be unnavigable because of ice, particularly in winter. Navigability depends on context: a small river may be navigable by smaller craft, such as a motorboat or a kayak, but unnavigable by a cruise ship. Shallow rivers may be made navigable by the installation of locks that increase and regulate water depth, or by dredging.

Public trust doctrine public right to certain territorial waters

The public trust doctrine is the principle that the sovereign holds in trust for public use some resources such as shoreline between the high and low tide lines, regardless of private property ownership.

Marsh v. Alabama, 326 U.S. 501 (1946), was a case decided by the United States Supreme Court, in which it ruled that a state trespassing statute could not be used to prevent the distribution of religious materials on a town's sidewalk, even though the sidewalk was part of a privately owned company town. The Court based its ruling on the provisions of the First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment.

In real property law, avulsion refers to a sudden loss of land, which results from the action of water. It differs from accretion, which describes a gradual addition to land resulting from the action of water.

Navigable servitude is a doctrine in United States constitutional law that gives the federal government the right to regulate navigable waterways as an extension of the Commerce Clause in Article I, Section 8 of the constitution. It is also sometimes called federal navigational servitude.

The Supreme Court decision in Illinois Central Railroad v. Illinois, 146 U.S. 387 (1892), reaffirmed that each state in its sovereign capacity holds permanent title to all submerged lands within its borders and holds these lands in public trust. This is a foundational case for the public trust doctrine. The Supreme Court held a four to three split decision that the State of Illinois did not possess the authority to grant fee title to submerged lands held in the public trust as navigable waters.

Pacific Legal Foundation(PLF) is a libertarian public interest law firm in the United States. PLF was established for the purpose of defending and promoting individual and economic freedom in the courts. To that end, PLF attorneys provide pro bono legal representation to clients, file amicus curiae briefs, and participate in administrative proceedings with the goal of supporting property rights, equality before the law, freedom of speech and association, economic liberty, and separation of powers. They have represented clients in 14 cases before the United States Supreme Court.

St. Louis v. Myers, 113 U.S. 566 (1885), was a motion to dismiss for want of a federal question to give jurisdiction regarding Acts that admitted Missouri into the Union while leaving the rights of riparian owners on the Mississippi River to be settled according to the principles of state law and relinquishing to the City of St. Louis the rights of the United States in wharves and thoroughfares, which did not authorize the city to impair the rights of other riparian proprietors by extending streets into the river.

An easement is a nonpossessory right to use and/or enter onto the real property of another without possessing it. It is "best typified in the right of way which one landowner, A, may enjoy over the land of another, B". It is similar to real covenants and equitable servitudes; in the United States, the Restatement (Third) of Property takes steps to merge these concepts as servitudes.

Stop the Beach Renourishment v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection, 560 U.S. 702 (2010), was a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held that the Florida Supreme Court did not effect an unconstitutional taking of littoral property owners' rights to future accretions and to contact the water by upholding Florida's beach renourishment program.

Water law in the United States refers to the Water resources law laws regulating water as a resource in the United States. Beyond issues common to all jurisdictions attempting to regulate water's uses, water law in the United States must contend with:

Morris v. United States, 174 U.S. 196 (1899), is a 5-to-2 ruling by the United States Supreme Court which held that the bed under the Potomac River between the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Virginia belonged to the United States government rather than nearby private landowners on the District of Columbia side.

Lux v. Haggin, 69 Cal. 255; 10 P. 674; (1886), is a historic case in the conflict between riparian and appropriative water rights. Decided by a vote of four to three in the Supreme Court of California, the ruling held that appropriative rights were secondary to riparian rights.

Eaton vs. Boston, Concord & Montreal Railroad was a New Hampshire Supreme Court case decided in 1872 between farmer Ezra B. Eaton and the railroad company. Eaton asked the court to decide if B., C. & M.R.R. flooding of his farm was considered a "taking" under the Fifth Amendment's eminent domain clause, and if the railroad was responsible for compensation to the farmer for the taking. The court asked if "a release of all damages on account of the laying out or construction of a railroad through and over the land of the releasor, does not cover damages occasioned to the remaining land of the releasor by the construction of the railroad over the land of other persons". In 1851, after construction of the railroad, Eaton gave the defendants a warranty deed for the part of his farm where the railroad was located and signed the following release: "I, the subscriber, do hereby acknowledge that I have received of the Boston, Concord, & Montreal Railroad the sum of two hundred and seventy-five dollars, in full for the amount of damages assessed to me by the railroad commissioners of the State of New Hampshire, in conjunction with the selectmen of Wentworth, on account of the laying out of the said Boston, Concord, & Montreal Railroad through and over my land; and I do hereby release and discharge the said corporation from said damages".

United States v. Jones, 109 U.S. 513 (1883), is an important decision by the United States Supreme Court which provides the power to take private property for public uses, in the exercise of the right of eminent domain, to the government of the United States. However, once the government exercises of the right of eminent domain and after a fair determination of the amount of compensation, any unforeseen damage to the property as a result of activities prior to the purchase but realized only afterwards is to be compensated by the government per any legislative decree.


  1. Black's Law Dictionary
  2. 1 2 Walton County v. Stop Beach Renourishment, 998 So.2d 1102 (Fla. 2008).
  3. Thomas Lyon Hamer, Speech of Mr. Hamer, of Ohio, on the Bill Authorizing Appropriations for a Survey and Exploring Expedition to the South Sea (1836), p. 37.
  4. "Text of Opinion: Glass v. Goeckel" (PDF). Lansing, Michigan: Michigan Supreme Court. July 2005. Retrieved August 28, 2013.