State asserts ownership to disputed portions of the Knik River

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Today (April 19th), the State of Alaska filed suit against the United States to assert ownership of the land underlying portions of the Knik River. After failed attempts to have the federal government recognize the State’s ownership of the bed of this river, the State felt it had no option but to take the matter to court.

“This case is an important step towards clarifying ownership and access rights for the Knik River,” said Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth. “I would have preferred to avoid litigation, but the federal government refused to recognize the State’s rights to these lands and waters. We are hoping that filing litigation will spur the federal government to quickly overturn its prior decision.”

Under the U.S. Constitution as well as federal law, the State of Alaska gained ownership to the beds of navigable or tidally-influenced water on the date of statehood. The only exceptions are waters expressly withdrawn by the federal government prior to statehood or waters determined to be “non-navigable.” The federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has previously issued a decision finding the disputed portion of the Knik non-navigable, and is currently reconsidering this determination. The State asserts that the disputed portion is navigable and is bringing the quiet title action to clear the cloud cast on its rights and title.

For more information on the case, please contact Assistant Attorney General Jessie Alloway at 269-5100.