Submerged Lands

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Issues related to submerged lands date back to Oregon’s inception when the Equal Footing Doctrine granted the state ownership of submerged and submersible lands on tidally-influenced and navigable waterways. Since then, some of these lands have been filled, developed and inhabited by occupants who may be unaware of the state’s entitlement to these lands. The state sometimes asserts its ownership at the time of a pending property sale, and a land claim may result. Revenue from the sale of these lands supports Oregon’s general education fund.

Disputes related to these lands can be protracted, expensive and challenging. In 2013, proposed Senate Bill 479 would have required the state to divest itself of these lands. The bill served as a catalyst for the Department of State Lands to assemble the Filled-Lands Advisory Group (FLAG), which included balanced representation from parties who have an interest in the issues related to submerged and submersible lands. Oregon Consensus convened and facilitated the group, which made recommendations to the Department of State Lands for a process to address land claims related to these lands. The group provided a progress report to the Legislature in 2014.