Nearly 20 years ago, June Eaton persuaded a bunch of us in Brooklin to address the town’s access to Center Harbor going back to its original taking while still a part of Sedgwick. It took 14 years to satisfactorily resolve the matter, and I became quite familiar with intertidal property law in Maine as a result. In a nutshell, since the Colonial Ordinances of 1641-47, Maine property owners abutting mean high water own the tidal zone to low water. Exactly how the intertidal zone is divvied up in specific instances depends on which one of several available procedures for plotting lines is accepted by the owners affected.
Now comes Sen. Dana Dow of landlocked Lincoln (yes, the Penobscot River flows past, but way, way, way above tidal action), who has submitted two bills, LD 1323 and 1388, to the Legislature contemplating reversing almost four centuries of law and practice by asserting the state’s ownership of intertidal land. A third bill, LD 1316, by Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos, whose hometown (Friendship) is surrounded by the sea, takes 33 words to assert “the state retains (sic) and holds title (sic) to intertidal land.” Clearly, as the wording and newspaper discussions illustrate, at least Dow has been put up to the task by advocates for the state who seek to overturn hundreds of years of established law. The argument (1388) has become that the intertidal ownership of the state is “federally rooted” and can be decided “only by the United States Supreme Court (sic).”
I’m not an attorney. I just happened to find myself immersed in particular waterfront parcels and their deeds over time. But these three bills, submitted independently of each other and without appropriate cross-references, are not a matter of merely making statutory correction. They represent a “taking,” an act of eminent domain (an “act of intertidal robbery”?), and should be treated accordingly.
Take heed. If you know your own state legislators, let them know, too.
Hendrik D. Gideonse