Riparian Rights – Submergence

Under the doctrine of submergence, title to land which becomes submerged by the gradual rise in water level reverts to the sovereign “in order to guarantee full public enjoyment of the watercourse.” 101 Ranch v. U.S., 905 F.2d 180 (8th Cir. 1990); Bonelli Cattle Co. v. U.S., 414 U.S. 313, 94 S.Ct. 517 (1973), overruled on other grounds, Oregon ex rel. State Land Board v. Corvallis Sand & Gravel Co., 429 U.S. 353, 97 S.Ct. 582 (1977); Hogue v. Burgois, 71 N.W.2d 47 (N.D. 1955).

Were the rule otherwise, the dominion and control of navigation by the state … would depend on the vagaries of the [water level], permitting state control where the [water] adhered to its course at the time of admission of the State to the Union and denying the state control where the [water] … subsequently migrated and submerged patented lands. This would lead to absurd and whimsical results. Hogue, 71 N.W.2d at 52.

Neither judgment quieting title to relicted lands in owners of land adjacent to navigable lake nor quitclaim deed from state of North Dakota were effective to defeat public’s interest in lake as navigable waterway, as owner in each instance received only such rights as it was entitled to have as a riparian owner upon public waters and thus lands were subject to doctrine of submergence, and United States, to which state had conveyed lake bed, had title in lands which subsequently became submerged. 101 Ranch v. U.S., 905 F.2d 180 (8th Cir. 1990).

When a river completely submerged his land, previous owner lost his title to the land and when land reappeared after the river moved north, the previous owner had no claim to it. Winkle v. Mitera, 196 Neb. 821, 241 N.W.2d 329 (1976). See alsoState v. Matzen, 197 Neb. 592, 250 N.W.2d 232 (1977).

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