Earthquakes and legal descriptions of land

I used to work for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater [City to Remain Nameless], and one of the things I had to do was file away the leases of the land they had rented out to various companies, usually along the [City Name] Sanitary and Ship Canal.

Anyway, joined to these leases was a legal description of the land, and they all had language that connected each plot to the Third Principal Meridian.

I was wondering then: Since earthquakes move the land, possibly bringing it closer or farther away from the principal meridians and baselines, after an earthquake happens, do they have to go through and change the legal descriptions for every plot of land that has been affected, or is there another way of dealing with that? Or is there generally no need to bother to do anything?

Calling it the “the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater [NAMELESS CITY]” and talking about the Third Principal Meridian, and, especially, calling it the “[CITY NAME] Sanitary and Ship Canal” does a pretty bad job of obscuring the fact that you’re in the Chicago Metro. Particularly on a board full of Chicagoans.

I guess I could also add that an earthquake altering the course of the Mississippi River at Kaskasia, Illinois (our erstwhile state capital!) is the reason why that sliver lies to the west of what is everywhere else our westernmost boundary. That’s not identical, and I doubt it represents a hard-and-fast rule, but it is one case when geological change was not allowed substantively to change political boundaries. It might stand to reason that a similar rule would be applied as between citizens as it is between polities.

Not being a Chicagoan, the first thing I thought when I saw “the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater [NAMELESS CITY]” was wonder how many cities had their water treatment named like that. Google gave me 334,000 results of Chicago. The weird thing is that if you google “-chicago” it gives you 343,000 results (!). Most of the Illinois, though.

In the case of the Mississippi, it is my understanding that if a change occurs suddenly then the line does not change with it. An example would be a river which suddenly cuts across two loops, as happens sometimes as a result of flood. If the river moves over gradually then the line moves with it.

I do not know if that pertains to earthquake changes; nor do I know if that pertains in any other area other than the Mississippi-Arkansas-Louisiana area of the Mississippi. Or if it still prevails.

Yeah, that was my little joke. I am originally from Chicago, but I now live in Santa Barbara. It was those two things that made me wonder about the legal ramifications of eathquakes. As Los Angeles and with it, SB, makes its way up to San Francisco by the mechanisms of plate tectonics, do all the little doodads in the legal description to a plot of land have to change?

I don’t think that a river changing its course is in itself too similar to what I’m asking since the land isn’t itself moving around, although I do now wonder what happens if your land becomes the new course of the Mississippi. I don’t think insurance covers that. . . .

Both situations are accounted for in the law. There are laws regarding riparian changes as well as seismic. I won’t go into details as they can vary from state to state and jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Even to a non-Chicagoan, and without looking anything up, “sanitary and ship canal” was a dead giveaway.

As an exercise in legal claptrap, I submit the following:

Let’s say you define a piece of land as between X long and Y long and “from the white fence to ABC river between X long and Y long.”

Following the majority common law rule, if someone comes along and moves the fence, what you own doesn’t change. Your boundary remains what it was. If the river moves, the boundary moves.

Now, if you define the land as between X long and and Y long and P lat to Q lat, an earthquake doesn’t change anything. It moves the dirt, not the land.

If you define the land as the top of a mesa, and the whole mesa moves from the earthquake, you still own the top of the mesa.

Wouldn’t this be covered somehow under flood insurance? One would assume that a property, on the bank of the Mighty Miss, would be eligible.

Especially with all the recent concern about Asian Carp getting into the Great Lakes, and how every other Great Lakes state would happily fill the shipping canal with concrete if given [del]half[/del] a quarter of a chance.

Similar questions come up with regard to any land movement. In the SFBA, a couple of the hilly residential areas are built on very slow moving landslides which have moved property lines substantially and caused pretty serious legal disputes.

Article here:

Precisely. Earthquakes do not alter the latitude or longitude of a site. The 3d PM is the 3d PM from the prime meridian, affecting property only in the USA, BTW, and then only that land which was surveyed from Ohio west. In addition, one needs to know the township (twp) number north of the baseline.

The basis of our rectangular system of surveys is the Act of 5/18/1796. On that date, Congress passed an act providing for the survey of the “territory nolrthwest of the river Ohio, and above the mouth of Kentucky river.” That act provided in part for dividing such lands as had not already been surveyed “by north and south lines run according to the true meridian, and by others crossing them at right angles, so as to from townships of six miles square…”

A parallel of latitude is a line running east and west from a fixed point on a principal meridian (pm). Parallels are established at six miles apart on such pm, and form the n and sides of a twp and are called township lines. Such lines run e and w to the first guide meridian, 24 miles.

A meridian line is a line run due n and s, established at intervals of six miles on the base line. They form the e and w sides of a twp and are also called the range lines. The base line is a line running e and w from a given point on the pm. The pm is a true n and s line run from a given point on the baseline through a certain tract to be surveyed. The entire survey of such tract is made with reference to the pm and base line. The ranges, either e or w, are numbered from the pm. By numbering or naming the pm, and by fixing the base line, and numbering the sections, twps and ranges, any tract of land in the US can be described with certainty.

A row of tps lying e or w of and parallel with a pm and n or s of a base line are designated as ranges. The tps situated e and w of each other are designated as tps, in describing lands, and are numbered from tghe base line n or s on the pm.