Part 1 of our "Boundary Disputes" blog addressed "dry-land" disputes. Part 2 of this series will address disputes pertaining to riparian bottomlands. As many of you may know, if you own land on an inland lake in Michigan you also own the submerged lands or riparian bottomlands to the middle of the lake or other water body.
Among other rights, you have the exclusive right to erect a dock and permanently moor boats on your riparian bottomlands. Because today's docks are larger and more elaborate than in the past, the incidence of disputes related to riparian bottomland ownership is increasing. So how does a property owner determine where the property lines related to their riparian bottom lands lie?
It is a simple matter to determine riparian bottomlands on a lake which is a perfect circle. Lines are drawn from the landward terminus points of the respective boundary lines to a point in the center of the lake. Natural lakes, however, are not perfect circles and do not lend themselves to such simplistic division. With respect to dry land, one can almost certainly locate a survey to demarcate legal property lines. Conversely, surveys of riparian bottom lands are uncommon and typically not performed except in connection with the resolution of a lawsuit. Ultimately, the goal is to "equitably apportion" the bottomlands based upon the amount of water frontage owned. Needless to say, riparian surveyors can differ greatly regarding how to "equitably apportion" riparian bottomlands. To further complicate matters, the doctrines of adverse possession and acquiescence can also become involved in disputes concerning the extent of riparian bottomlands ownership.© 2013 Varnum LLP