Riparian Law

Riparian Property Rights

Virginia's Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula are blessed with hundreds, if not thousands, of miles of tidal shore. Ownership of land abutting tidal waters entitles the owner of the land to certain riparian or water rights. These riparian rights include the right to ownership of land added by natural forces (accretion) and the right, within one's "area of riparian apportionment" to wharf out to navigable water.

Navigating the murky waters of riparian law.

Building a pier or installing mooring pilings requires not only a variety of federal, state and local permits, it also requires a determination that the structures will not encroach on neighboring areas of riparian apportionment. Similarly, before investing in waterfront property, a buyer is wise to investigate whether there are any encroachments, either from the property into adjoining areas of riparian apportionment, or from adjoining property into the riparian area belonging to the property being purchased.

It is a common misconception that the area of riparian apportionment is formed by a simple extension of the side lot lines out into the water. Not so. The boundaries are instead governed by a number of variables, including the length and shape of the ever-changing shoreline, the depth and contours of the submerged bottom land, and the present and historical uses of the particular waterway.

At Dunton, Simmons & Dunton, L.L.P., we represent commercial and residential property owners throughout Virginia's Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula, and help them determine their riparian rights and resolve or litigate disputes regarding water use and ownership.

Consult Experienced, Knowledgeable Attorneys

Tidal riparian law is a unique legal concentration, unfamiliar to many lawyers. It often involves specialized local knowledge and requires access to local experts. Dunton, Simmons & Dunton, L.L.P., has decades of experience with riparian law. Attorneys John Hodges, Bill Curdts and J. Rawleigh Simmons lead our riparian law practice. For assistance, please contact our office at 804-435-5069 or 866-603-0774.