Sixth in a series on water boundaries.
The rule that land beneath the waters of a non-navigable lake is to be apportioned among the various shoreline owners by drawing lines to a center point illustrates one of those neat ideas that proves untidy when applied in the field. Lakes are never circular and reliction is seldom regular, allowing lakefront proprietors ample opportunity to argue over their resultant slice of the pie. Public Lands Surveying, a Casebook, prepared by the Cadastral Training Staff of the United States Bureau of Land Management Cadastral Survey Training Program in 1975, has an excellent example of the difficulties of dividing a lake bed in its discussion of the "Reliction of Flagstaff Lake," found in section D-5. That case study discuses several different ideas for apportioning the lake bed, and points out how title matters such as the dates of various patents can affect the process. Even simpler examples are difficult, however, and in my experience, these questions are not only difficult but contentious.
Most lakefront survey questions involve the extension of private recreational docks, and the resultant effects on neighbors' use of their water area and on their view. Intuitively it seems unnecessary to use a principle designed to allocate the bed of a dried-up lake to control the direction of a dock within a lake that's full of water, especially if all the lakefront owners legally can use the waters of the lake in common; and some, but not all, courts treat the docking situation differently from the division of land left dry by reliction. The following cases show how various state jurisdictions have faced these issues.