States rely on state ownership of the beds of streams, rivers, and lakes for various regulatory and proprietary purposes. These include licensing of bed use, leasing of underlying mineral rights, protection of public use rights, assertion of public trust powers, and location of boundaries of abutting privately owned land. The extent of this state ownership in states created from federal territories is determined by a conjunction of the following: (1) the "equal footing rule," (2) the law of federal land patent interpretation, (3) state rules on incidents to title to abutting uplands, (4) federal and state definitions of navigability, and (5) the law of implied grants of land from the sovereign. States have asserted title to the beds of many streams, rivers, and lakes by assuming the correctness of certain interpretations of these rules of law. This article reexamines those interpretations. It summarizes the basic structure of bed title law and examines its current status under recent Supreme Court decisions. It then analyzes the cases to determine the location of title of beds of federally nonnavigable inland waters when a state created from a federal territory asserts such title.
Peter N. Davis,
State Ownership of Beds of Inland Waters—A Summary and Reexamination,
57 Neb. L. Rev. 665
Available at: https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/nlr/vol57/iss3/4