Who owns a river? Who owns its banks and its bed?

Monday, August 22, 2011 - 11:06am

Jeff Kelble, the Shenandoah Riverkeeper, recently responded to a case against two anglers on the Jackson River.

"The state has a constitutional obligation to hold and protect this land [the river bottom] on behalf of the people," said Jeff Kelble, the Shenandoah Riverkeeper. "And if they fail to do that, they have failed to uphold their constitutional obligation."

Kelble and others worry that if the plaintiffs prevail without ever proving they hold the grants, if it's always up to a defendant to spend huge sums on legal bills to determine whether or not the state owns a streambed, it could open the door for further privatization of now-public water.

"There's an awful lot of Commonwealth grant [and King's grant] property out there," he said. "You have these legitimate legal issues, and the state is putting their head in the sand if they're making the claim that this is simply a civil trespass case between two private properties. It is avoiding a very important issue.

"There should be no situation where law-abiding, honest citizens in the commonwealth should get in trouble while they're making every single effort to abide by the law, particularly when relying on state's evidence and state's information."