Page 14 - ESS Summer 2023
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THE RIPARIAN BOUNDARY



                                       CHALLENGE



                                       By: Dr. Richard L. Elgin, PS, PE








        About the Author:


         Dr. Richard Elgin, PS, PE is a surveying practitioner, educator, researcher, collector and author. He codeveloped the
         “ASTRO” software products and coauthored the Lietz/Sokkia ephemeris. He wrote The U.S. Public Land Survey System
         for Missouri and Riparian Boundaries for Arkansas and Shoulda Played the Flute (a memoir of his year flying helicopters
         in Vietnam) and Riparian Boundaries for Missouri (in press). He owns a large collection of early American surveying
         equipment, rides a Moots bicycle and drives an Alfa Romeo 1600 GT Junior. Dick’s articles have appeared in “American
         Surveyor” for many years. He may be reached at: elgin@rollanet.org


        The Riparian Boundary - Not Your Usual Boundary        not within the riparian’s control. Or one’s riparian bound-
                                                               ary may be changed by others without the riparian owner’s
          n the United States, rivers, streams and lakes provide a   knowledge  or  permission,  such  as  by  artificially-induced
        Inatural boundary for millions of parcels along thousands   river movements. Riparian boundaries frequently bring
        of miles of boundary line. As boundaries, rivers are a nat-  conjecture to the landowner, consternation to the survey-
        ural monument, holding the highest priority in the order   or, confusion to attorneys, confoundment to the courts and
        of conflicting title elements. Visible, their identity certain,   they have conflated commentators.
        they have been used by man as boundaries for millennia.
        However convenient, and as natu-
        ral, visible, substantial and inviting
        as they are for governments, trea-
        ties, and owners, they have one
        huge, troublesome characteristic:
        They move!  There are many oth-
        er issues related to using water-
        bodies as boundaries, but their
        ambulatory nature is what makes
        riparian boundaries different from
        all others.  This boundary move-
        ment,  influenced  by  the  whims
        and vicissitudes of Mother Nature
        and the designs and construction
        of man, brings uncertainty.  With
        movement, the extent of title and
        tract acreage changes; even small
        differences in fluvial processes can
        result in large differences in owner-
        ship. Landowners face uncertainty
        in something they desire to be firm
        and absolute: The location of the
        boundaries of their real property. Generally, owners do not   Additionally troublesome is that riparian boundaries can
        like their boundaries to change, their acreages decreasing   be four-dimensional: In a plane, their North/East horizontal
        or increasing, their lands perhaps vanishing altogether.   position can be affected by vertical movement of the wa-
        These boundaries can change by forces of nature that are   terbody. And time can affect the riparian/littoral boundary
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