Riparian Rights – Boundary Follows Channel

‘The general rule on this subject is: (1) That where the thread of the main channel of the river is the boundary between two estates and it changes by the slow and natural processes of accretion and reliction, the boundary follows the channel; (2) but, where it changes by the sudden and violent process of avulsion, the boundary remains where the main channel was at the time of the avulsion, subject always to such changes as may be wrought after the avulsion by accretion or erosion while the old channel is occupied by a running stream. There is a well-established and rational exception: It is that, where a river changes its main channel, not by excavating, passing over, and then filling the intervening place between its old and its new main channel, but by flowing around this intervening land, which never becomes in the meantime its main channel, and the change from the old to the new main channel is wrought during many years by the gradual or occasional increase from year to year of the proportion of the waters of the river passing over the course which eventually becomes the new main channel, and the decrease from year to year of the proportion of its waters passing through the old main channel until the greater part of its waters flow through the new main channel, the boundary line between the estates remains in the old channel subject to such changes in that channel as are wrought by erosion or accretion while the water in it remains a running stream.’ State v. Eckland, 147 Neb. 508, 23 N.W.2d 782 (1946) (quoting Commissioners of Land Office of State of Oklahoma v. United States, 270 F. 110, 113 (8th Cir.1929)).

Where the thread of the main channel of river is boundary line between two estates and it changes by the slow and natural processes of accretion and reliction, the boundary follows the channel. Anderson v. Cumpston, 258 Neb. 891, ___ N.W.2d ___ (2000); Ziemba v. Zeller, 86 N.W.2d 190, 165 Neb. 419 (1957).

A new main channel will not necessarily displace the previous main channel as the boundary between riparian owners. Monument Farms, Inc. v. Daggett, 2 Neb. App. 988, 520 N.W.2d 556 (1994). See Valder v. Wallis, 196 Neb. 222, 242 N.W.2d 112 (1976) (where the river cut a new main channel); Durfee v. Keiffer, 168 Neb. 272, 95 N.W.2d 618 (1959); State v. Eckland, 147 Neb. 508, 23 N.W.2d 782 (1946) (where an existing channel was supplanting a parallel channel as the thread of the stream); Anderson v. Cumpston, 258 Neb. 891, ___ N.W.2d ___ (2000) and Ziemba v. Zeller, 86 N.W.2d 190, 165 Neb. 419 (1957) (where a stream which is a boundary from any cause suddenly abandons its old and seeks a new bed, such change of channel works no change of boundary, and the boundary remains as it was the center of the old channel, although no water may be flowing therein).

Where the stream which is a boundary, from any cause suddenly abandons its old and seeks a new bed, such change of channel works no change of boundary, and the boundary remains as it was in the center of the old channel, although no water may be flowing therein. Monument Farms, Inc. v. Daggett, 2 Neb. App. 988, 520 N.W.2d 556 (1994).

The flood plain of a stream is considered part of the channel of such stream, and no one may obstruct the flow of floodwaters in the natural drainage to the detriment of another. Giger v. City of Omaha, 232 Neb. 676, 442 N.W.2d 182 (1989); Kluck v. Mentzer, 217 Neb. 8, 347 N.W.2d 306 (1984); Bahn v. Raikes, 160 Neb. 503, 70 N.W.2d 507 (1955).