Accretion and Avulsion

Accretion is the gradual depositing of land along the side of a stream or lake, which reliction is the uncovering of land by the gradual recession of water. Erosion is the gradual wearing away of land by water and avulsion is the sudden charge of the banks of a river due to flooding. The common law rule is that boundaries move with accretion, reliction, and erosion, but not with avulsion.

The recognition of accretion depends on a combination of disciplines. A gradual change becomes a sudden change when of becomes perceptible to a person standing near the bank at any particular time. Litigation in this area usually counters around identifying historical evidence of the speed of change of a water course. Example: The manula of instructions for the survey of the public lands of the United States states that a surveyor must presume that any historical movement of a water course was accretive or erosive, unless the surveyor has positive evidence of an avusive change. One must be careful, however, when applying this presumption where the watercourse forms the boundary of an Indian reservation; presumptions concerning land titles generally run in favor of the tribe, rather than according to some other rule of convenience.

Deed Calls and Division of the Beds of Nonnavigable Lakes and Rivers

One must examine the decisions of each jurisdiction to determine its bias toward interpreting privately- created legal descriptions containing call to water boundaries and meander lines. Expert water boundary surveyors in any particular area should already be familiar with the local presumptions (e.g., whether a call to a “bank” in a deed carries title to the water or bed unless such title is specifically excluded). Courts pick and choose among the rules of construction in these cases and one cannot make predictions without looking for specific precedent.

The divisions of privately-owned beds of Nonnavigable rivers and lakes follows fewer rules, but there is still enough variation to require caution.
For rivers, the usual method is to computer courses along the edges (menders) and along a median line placed in the thread of the river. Next, the surveyor computes distances along the menders for each upland ownership and compares them with distances tries to apportion a share of linear distance along the median line to each upland owner, according to each owner’s proportionate sharer of the linear distances along the meander lines. Often, this results in rather odd shapes for the various parcels of river bed. The surveyor may thus modify this method, always with and eye toward keeping each owner’s share “equitable” and “in front” of this or her upland holding where there are straight sections of shoreline, the surveyor generally will attempt to run the dividing lines between abutting parcels at right angles with the shore. Sometimes right angles with the median line work best. Very rarely, the surveyor will extend the side lines of the upland parcels into the river. Obviously, much depends on the talent and experience of the surveyor, and this is an area that requires agreement from all affected landowners.

There are four common methods for apportioning the bed of a Nonnavigable lake. There simplest applies only to a nearly circular pond, where the surveyo4 computes a radius point in the center of the lake and then runs lines from that point out to where the upland boundaries meet the high water line, carving the lake into pie-shaped chunks. With most lakes one must compute the median line, which will run lengthwise through the lake and begin and end at suitable radius points for coves at each “end”. The surveyor divides these coves using he “pie” method. Then, for the remaining parcels, the surveyor might apportion distances along the median line against distances along the share, or might construct lines at right angles with the median lines, or might construct lines at right angles with lines along the shore or with lines running between headlands on the shore. Once again, the only guides are equity and keeping the private holdings in front of the uplands.

These are not he only methods possible very occasionally, the surveyor might attempt to apportion by areas, but this is seldom satisfactory. Giving the property with greatest lengthy of shoreline the correspondingly greatest area of the bed is usually just one of the” equities” to be considered in applying the above methods. The surveyor also must always take in to account the reasons why one needs to apportion the bed. The common low methods described above work best when you are palceling out a dry lake or river bed. Some o these rules, however, come from methods used to settle old did pites over the commercial cutting and selling o ice from prozen lakes. These rules might not be appropriate if the lake is still full of water and all one wants to know is there the upland owner cunanchor a dock. For instance, if the jurisdiction allows all owners abutting a Nonnavigable lake to use the entire surface of the lake for recreation, then it might be appropriate merely to apportion the length of the upland ownership against a line constructed in water deep enough to float a recreational boat-especially if the lake shore is of such a shape that some “pie” method results in lines that are clumsy for the construction of piers. The lesson, once a gain is that this area requires agreements, for in a disputed situation no method is bomb proof.

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