ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Legal Newsline) — Alaska Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth announced April 19 that the state is suing the United States to assert ownership of the land underlying portions of Knik River.
The U.S. Constitution and existing federal law, according to Lindemuth’s office, grant the state of Alaska ownership to the beds of navigable or tidally influenced water. There are just two exceptions – waters expressly withdrawn by the federal government before Alaska became a state, and waters determined to be non-navigable.
The federal Bureau of Land Management determined the Knik River to be non-navigable. The state disputes this claim and has attempted to have the federal government recognize its ownership of the area before but is turning to legal options. Lindemuth’s office asserts the disputed portion is navigable and should be under the control of the state.
“This case is an important step toward clarifying ownership and access rights for the Knik River,” Lindemuth said. “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.”
The staff contact for the case is assistant attorney general Jessie Alloway.