Supreme Court ruling favors landowners

Buckeye Farm News

Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF) is pleased with a recent ruling from the Ohio Supreme Court that upholds the private property rights of landowners along Lake Erie.

OFBF filed an amicus brief in the case in September 2010 at the request of the Lake County Farm Bureau.

“Our chief concern centered on arguments being advanced by the State of Ohio and environmental groups that, if accepted by the court, would have stripped farmers and other landowners of their private ownership of the riverbeds, streambeds and lake beds of all ‘navigable’ rivers, streams and in-land lakes in Ohio,” said Chad Endsley, OFBF director of agricultural law.

Endsley said the state’s request would have undone two centuries worth of Ohio law, which since 1828 has said owners of property bordering rivers, streams and in-land lakes hold title to the land extending to the center of the water body.

The state’s request could have granted the public the right to walk along, camp, fish, bird watch and otherwise use for recreational purposes the dry land alongside privately owned “navigable” rivers, streams or in-land lakes, as long as they stayed below the “high water mark.”

“Fortunately, the Ohio Supreme Court did not accept the far-reaching arguments advanced by the State of Ohio and environmental groups,” Endsley said. “Instead, the court upheld existing Ohio law and stated that the territory of Lake Erie held in trust by the State of Ohio for the people of the state extends to the natural shoreline, which is the line at which the water usually stands when free from disturbing causes.”

The court did not accept the state’s invitation to extend the public trust territory to the high water mark, or to apply the legal principles applicable to Lake Erie (including ownership of the lake bed and the public’s rights to use and enjoyment of such property) to other Ohio water bodies, Endsley said.

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