If I make my own island, do I own it?

Suppose that I make my own island out there somewhere. I have a few thousand tons of sand and rock that I can just dump out there.

  1. If I built the island within the national waters of a country (say, the US), would I own the island in terms of real estate law? For example, if I built an island off the Jersey Shore, could I “sell” it to a real estate developer for a new resort and have the sale recognized under New Jersey law?
  2. If I built the island within the national waters of the US, how would it be decided what State or Territory the island is part of? For example, if I build an island in the Delaware Bay, would it automatically become part of NJ or DE, or would surveyors have to come out and see which coast it is closer too? Would the island not automatically join a jurisdiction, and become a separate US Territory until Congress and/or State Legislatures decide on its fate?
  3. I’m a US Citizen. If I built the island out in the middle of the high seas, would it automatically become a US Territory because I am a citizen? Would it become part of my State or Territory of residence unless the Legislature disclaims sovereignty? Would I have a rational claim to crown myself King of my island and rule it as a sovereign country with government-subsidized crack cocaine for the masses, legal marijuana sales, and the Island Library of Child Porn without US authorities raiding it?

Obviously, this is a hypothetical and I’m not actually planning on doing this and don’t really want the trouble it might involve.

In answer to question 2, at least, the boundaries of states do not stop at the water’s edge. If your island site is within the territorial waters of the United States, it’s also within the territorial waters of an individual state (or possibly more than one, if you built it on a border).

For question 3, there’s some precedent from the Principality of Sealand, though if anything your claim would be stronger, since you’re building a new structure, not just claiming a pre-existing abandoned one.

Before building your island on the underwater land you would need buy it from the US. So, you couldn’t just dump some gravel off the coast of New Jersey and sell it, you’d first need to convince NJ that it was a good, economically viable idea. They would probably require a solid game plan with a real estate developer already lined up.

This wiki might be of interest to you.

This is a bit of a tangent, but you picked an unusual example there (bolding mine):

So if you’re within twelve miles of New Castle, you would belong to Delaware, full stop. Out in Delaware Bay, though, they’d probably need to call in the surveyors—and would probably insist that you do so before construction started.

Besides, dumping fill in coastal waters without the proper permits is probably illegal. There are all sorts of regulations about construction in water, even away from the shore.

[The Master speaks](http:// http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/783/how-do-i-go-about-starting-my-own-country) on a related topic, but doesn’t directly answer any of the OP’s questions.

There was a recent case in North Carolina where some coastal land which had eroded away a few decades ago reappeared. Heirs to the original landowners tried to reclaim the land, but the state denied their claim.

Your chances of getting a US State or the US Government to go along with your desire to dump a gazillion tons of fill into US territorial waters to make an artificial island for your residential use as a private citizen are exceedingly slim.

An easier way than dumping sand.

Not true, although it once was. State waters only extend 3 miles from shore while US waters go 12 miles out. At one time, the US only claimed 3 miles and only recognized the same for other countries. I believe this changed in the mid-90s when the US claimed 12 miles and also 200 mile economic exclusion zones (EEZ).

As for the OP, creating a new island would be something covered by the EEZs, so you’d have to get beyond them to be considered on the high seas. Off most coasts, that far out would put you past the continental shelf, making it extremely difficult to make an island this way.

In fact there’s a couple precedents for this. There are two landfill peninsulas that were built from the Jersey side of the bay and both belong to Delaware.