Suppose I own a piece of coastal land. The seas rise, the land sinks, and my property is permanently flooded. Do I still own it? Is there some legal procedure whereby my property rights are terminated and it becomes a common waterway?
Suppose further that I had built several structures on this land. Some of them were reduced to sunken wreckage in the flooding, but having foresight, I converted some of them to piers, and these remain usable. Do I still own these things?
If this article is to be believed, you’re probably out of luck:
This is contrasted with land added/lost by avulsion (I learned a new word today), which is when land is added/lost suddenly, as in a storm or due to a shift in a river channel.
ETA: Can’t speak to the issue of the piers, though. And I suppose that it’s possible (if implausible) that some waterfront property owner somewhere might have a deed whose metes and bounds, when carefully parsed, might give them rights to the land that’s now under water.
Canada, not the US, so it may be different, but I am fortunate enough to own some oceanfront, and my property begins “at the usual high tide mark” (or wording to that effect) and then inland from there. So, if the seas rise, I’m assuming I’m out of luck.
It seems to me that even if gradual sea level rise were generally responsible for the loss of the land, it would likely occur not slowly and gradually, but in a series of big “bites” coinciding with major storms. Therefore I might be able to use the avulsion argument to keep my property. But who would be arguing against me — the government? Someone who wants to fish in the area without my permission?
From looking at the definition of “avulsion”, it seems to refer to land that is separated from the mainland (or bank of a river), not to land that is lost (permanently submerged) to a general rising water level.
In many coastal areas, the extent of the landowner’s rights is well defined. In Texas, for example, the landowner’s rights end at the vegetation line; the land between the vegetation line and water is considered “beach” and is public land (although the public may not use your land for access).
If you could identify the location of the land in question, you might get a better answer, but IMHO, you’d be out of luck. Any land lost to the rising water is lost until the water recedes (and vegetation returns, in Texas).
ETA: As to what would happen to someone who wanted to fish over what used to be your land without permission, they would fish. They wouldn’t need your permission.
Kind of relevant… The land owner is probably going to have time to repair avulsion or erosion, and so does not instantly lose the right to the land, and could keep it by repairing the land… but if the land or water authority blocks the repairs, then either erosion or AVULSION or water level rises, could result in lose of title to the land.
Were it to be that the growth of the land was enough, someone who illegally reclaimed the waterway might keep the illegal won land (Due to definition of it being as the high water line ? )
Most jurisdictions with significant numbers of water front properties have by now installed law to say that the land associated with the freehold, private, title CANNOT grow beyond the titles measured boundary, so makes it a fixed boundary, but left it so the land can be lost - the act of god /force majure is unstoppable.
So it would seem that constructing on the remaining underwater piers might be allowed, but could be blocked by local laws . (it could be declared environmentally sensitive and so the repair would need governments approvals… or the titles people might declare time is up, after a bit of scrutiny of local law… )
When your land’s boundary is defined by a body of water, and that body gets bigger, you lose the land. People go to a lot of effort to prevent erosion of their land that way. OTOH if the body of water shrinks you pick up new land. As the seas rise there will be a lot of effort to build sea walls and raise the land by the shore to prevent the loss of valuable property.
Not necessarily. Near us is a piece of land for salethat includes land currently under the bay off of a large lake. As the bank erodes the land you own above the waterline decreases while the land you own under the waterline increases for zero net loss.
I figured that. I was just trying to show that the rule “When your land’s boundary is defined by a body of water, and that body gets bigger, you lose the land.” can’t be generalized for ALL land and ALL water. Lakes are the exception that proves the rule.
Yeah, I was thinking of the cases I knew about where the water was streams or the ocean. A lake can be owned by someone. I assume state laws vary, but the case I know about for a property at the confluence of two streams in NY would have any land lost become public property. A lake is something that can be entirely owned though.
In Australia at least (and I assume many other places) building sea walls on your own private property is illegal (or at least banned by local councils). Sea walls stop erosion in one place but they increase erosion in surrounding areas and so then all the surrounding properties build sea walls. The end result is that the rich protect their waterfront mansions but the erosion gets much worse in sensitive wetland areas.
There was a thread a while ago discussing the chunks of some states that have migrated to the other side of the Mississippi over the decades. The state certainly retains its possession.
As for repairs to shoreline - most states have some very strict laws about disturbing nature by building out. If you want to play Dutch land grab, or even reclaim lost shoreline, you may run afoul of local laws.
Not to mention, if it’s below high tide, it’s not your property to dump fill onto any longer. Too late.
I think that is just the thing: Seaside and river property is defined by the body of water whereas lakeside property usually is not. I own lakefront property that is defined by metes and calls. When the lake is high in the summer, I own a portion of the lake.