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AG Curtis Hill: Continued access to Lake Michigan beaches serves the public interest

StateNewsAfter the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to hear a case involving access to Lake Michigan’s beaches, Attorney General Curtis Hill expressed satisfaction that the ability of the general public to enjoy the natural beauty of Indiana’s shoreline remains protected.

In February of 2018, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that the State of Indiana under existing law possessed “public trust title” to the bed of Lake Michigan up to the ordinary high water mark (OHWM). The ruling rejected challenges by former owners of beachfront land who claimed the state’s ownership extended only to the water’s edge at any given time. The plaintiffs petitioned for certiorari at the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Legally determining Indiana’s portion of the Lake Michigan shoreline is rooted in a centuries-old English common law that predates Indiana’s existence as a state,” Attorney General Hill said. “Subsequent state law has consistently upheld the principle that the ‘ordinary high water mark’ is a better boundary than the ever-shifting line in the sand where the water meets the shore. The practical benefit of this principle is that everyone retains the right to walk along the shoreline of this great natural wonder in Indiana’s northwest corner.”

Attached are the Indiana Supreme Court’s February 2018 decision and Indiana’s brief in opposition to the challenge of that decision.