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News and Notes: Must-Have Information Regarding Legal Marine Boundaries

"As far as the cannonball flies."

Many legal documents once used phrases such as this to describe marine boundaries. While this type of description was adequate in colonial times, more precise measurements are required today. But even with modern technology, setting a marine boundary is not an easy task. One must consider legal precedents, and there are disagreements about the proper use of modern marine mapping techniques.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has taken a lead role in addressing these issues. The two publications mentioned here are the results of this effort, which is changing and improving the way marine boundaries are set.

Marine Managed Areas: Best Practices for Boundary Making

Before this publication could be written, experts in the field had to come together to reach understandings and agreements about the use of technology, terms, and the resolutions of various common boundary issues. The result of this effort is an easy-to-use best practices manual that helps those who write and map boundaries for marine managed areas.

A law or regulation for a marine area cannot have its fully intended effect if the boundary description is vague, inaccurate, or incorrectly represented on a map. The manual, currently at the publisher, provides guidelines intended to reduce boundary misunderstandings and litigation and helps users transition to modern mapping techniques that focus on digital data.

The guidelines were written by the Federal Geographic Data Committee's Marine Boundary Working Group and sponsored by the National Marine Protected Areas Center. A field of experts, including cartographers, lawyers, regulators, spatial data analysts, surveyors, and other professionals with an interest in marine management, participated in this effort, which was led by the NOAA Office for Coastal Management.

Shore and Sea Boundaries Series

The Shore and Sea Boundaries series, which was begun 45 years ago, is an invaluable resource for attorneys, judges, and all those concerned with defining the maritime boundaries of the U.S. The three-book series documents the legal and technical principles of U.S. boundary delineation.

Volumes one and two, by Aaron Shalowitz, were published in 1962 and 1964. Volume three was written in 2000 by Michael Reed, an attorney and expert involved in maritime boundary issues for almost four decades.

In this book, Reed not only documents the legal principles derived from the many tidelands decisions that have occurred over the past four decades, but also places those decisions in historical context.

Volume three was written under the auspices of the NOAA Office for Coastal Management and Office of Coast Survey, and the U.S. Department of the Interior's Minerals Management Service.


To get a copy of Marine Managed Areas: Best Practices for Boundary Making, please contact David.Stein@noaa.gov. A copy of Shore and Sea Boundaries is available on the Internet at http://chartmaker.ncd.noaa.gov/hsd/shallow.htm/.

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