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Water Boundaries for Land Surveyors


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This presentation introduces the student to the complex and confusing world of riparian water boundaries. The seminar begins with the historical development of water boundary law with regard to Rome, England, and the United States. After a foundation has been laid, the boundary between private lands and the sovereign, a boundary in continual conflict, will be discussed in depth. Next, students will apply what they have learned in group exercises by calculating and drawing water boundaries in various situations. And finally, emerging issues such as climate change and sea level rise will debated among the group.

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Water Boundaries for Land Surveyors

  2. 2. COMPLEXITY OF WATER BOUNDARIES SURVEYING WATER BOUNDARIES CAN BE FRUSTRATING BECAUSE… • The shoreline is constantly moving • The surveyor must have a basic knowledge of law, geology, engineering, and other sciences • Judges have difficulty understanding how these types of cases should be decided
  4. 4. ORIGINS OF RIPARIAN LAW • Modern water boundary doctrines are based on Roman Law, and quite similar to Justinian’s Code • Roman Law was refined over the centuries by court cases and codified by English scholars such as Lord Hale and Blackstone’s Commentaries
  6. 6. TYPES OF EVIDENCE • Historical aerial photos • Witnesses • Reliable historical documents and original field notes • Upland tree species, soil sample, topography, vegetation, and escarpments
  7. 7. THE ORDINARY HIGH WATER MARK The OHWM is defined as the boundary along the river that delineates the vegetation line, which destroys its value for AGRICULTURAL purposes
  8. 8. TYPES OF MEANDER CORNERS • The purpose of meander corners is to mark every point where a standard, township or section line intersects a meanderable body of water • Meander line surveys begin and end at meander corners • Meander corner types include meander corners, special meander corners and auxiliary meander corners
  9. 9. PROPORTIONATE SHORELINE METHOD • This method was first established by Johnson V. Jones (1861) and is referenced in Manual 8-133 • The new frontage along the water boundary of an accreted area is apportioned in the same ratio as the frontage of the ancient bank
  10. 10. TIDAL WATERS TIDELANDS ARE USUALLY OWNED BY STATES AND HELD IN PUBLIC TRUST OFFSHORE SUBMERGED LANDS (SEAWARD OF HIGH OR LOW WATER MARK)  1953 Submerged Lands Act quitclaimed submerged land (ocean and inland navigable waters) to states  Usually 3 miles from ordinary low water  Exceptions – Texas and Florida extend nine miles into Gulf
  11. 11. SPRING AND NEAP TIDES • Most prominent tidal factor • Spring: full moon • Neap: first and last quarter moon
  12. 12. TIDAL AND GEODETIC RELATIONSHIPS • Geodetic datum relationships to tidal datums are established at tide stations by connecting tidal bench mark networks to the national spatial reference system (NSRS) maintained by NGS • Relationships created using either leveling or static GPS • Relationships only reliable locally due to parameters such as variations in range of tide, bathymetry, topography, geoid variations, and vertical land movement
  13. 13. STOP THE BEACH RENOURISHMENT, INC.(SABRE) VS. THE FLORIDA EPA (2009) • Florida wanted to create a state-owned public beach between private waterfront property and the Gulf of Mexico through its beach (re)nourishment program • Homeowners sued because it would cut them off from the beach and the accretions • The Supreme Court ruled for the EPA