U.S. Water News Online
WASHINGTON -- Alaska officials are asking the federal
government for official state ownership of lands beneath eight rivers
The Salcha and Kasilof rivers are on the list the state Department
of Natural Resources submitted to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
Under federal law, the lands under navigable waters belong to
states. But unresolved debates about the definition of "navigable''
and other disputes have prevented the state from obtaining title to
most such submerged land in Alaska.
In December 2002, the Bush administration said it wanted states to
ask for recordable disclaimers as a way to get their land. The
disclaimer is a statement that the federal government does not own a
piece of property. The disclaimers can apply not only to riverbeds
but also to road rights of way, including those claimed by states
under the defunct federal Revised Statute 2477.
The Bush administration said it was trying to resolve property
disputes without going to court -- the most common way to establish
ownership. Environmental groups, however, said the new policy opened
a new path for developers. Last year, they tried unsuccessfully to
pass legislation in Congress that would have blocked all disclaimers
in national parks and refuges.
Dick Mylius, a state DNR spokesman, said the disclaimers would
recognize the state's existing ownership, the Fairbanks Daily
"This is simply an administrative process that allows BLM to
formally disclaim any title interest in the beds of these state-owned
navigable waters and clears the cloud on the state's title,'' Mylius
said. "The state's title to submerged lands is somewhat clouded
because it took ownership at statehood without any written
Other lands for which the state applied include those under: the
Chilkoot and Chilkat rivers and lakes near Haines, and the Tsirku and
Klehini rivers, both tributaries of the Chilkat.
BLM will take public comment on the applications.
The BLM is already considering state applications for Tazlina
River and Lake, Klutina River and Lake, the Kvichak River and Lake
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