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on exceptions to report of special master

No. 128, Orig.Argued January 10, 2005--Decided June 6, 2005

States are generally entitled "under both the equal footing doctrine and the Submerged Lands Act to submerged lands beneath tidal and inland navigable waters, and under the Submerged Lands Act alone to submerged lands extending three miles seaward of [their] coastline." United States v. Alaska, 521 U. S. 1, 6, 9 (Alaska (Arctic Coast)). The Federal Government can overcome the presumption of title and defeat a future State's claim, however, by setting submerged lands aside before statehood in a way that shows an intent to retain title. Id., at 33-34. Here, Alaska and the United States dispute title to two areas of submerged lands. The first consists of pockets and enclaves of submerged lands underlying waters in the Alexander Archipelago that are more than three nautical miles from the coast of the mainland or any individual island. Alaska can claim these pockets and enclaves only if the archipelago waters themselves qualify as inland waters. The second area consists of submerged lands beneath the inland waters of Glacier Bay, a well-marked indentation into the southeastern Alaskan coast. To claim them, the United States must rebut Alaska's presumption of title. The Special Master recommended that summary judgment be granted to the United States with respect to both areas, concluding that the Alexander Archipelago waters do not qualify as inland waters either under a historic inland waters theory or under a juridical bay theory, and concluding that the United States had rebutted the presumption that title to the disputed submerged lands beneath Glacier Bay passed to Alaska at statehood. Alaska filed exceptions to these conclusions.

Held: Alaska's exceptions are overruled. Pp. 4-35.

Full Text of Opinion


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