Join Malsce Today
Submit Button

MALSCE Opposes H 254 - State Bill on Land Affected by Ocean Erosion

Type:  Featured News  

MALSCE has registered its opposition to H. 254, An Act preserving public trust rights in land affected by ocean erosion. Link to the bill: http://www.malegislature.gov/Bills/187/House/H00254

MALSCE President David W. Humphrey, PLS sent the following letter, presented as text here, to key leaders in the Massachusetts House of Representatives: 


May 7, 2012

Senator Karen Spilka
Assistant Majority Whip
Room 511C
State House
Boston, MA   02133

Re: Please Oppose House Bill #254


Dear Senator Spilka:


I am writing to you as President of the Massachusetts Association of Land Surveyors and Civil Engineers (MALSCE).  We are a professional society representing professional land surveyors throughout Massachusetts.


It has come to our attention that proposed legislation (H-254) will change the current laws related to littoral ownership boundaries along the coast.  For several reasons, MALSCE does not support passage of this bill.


Littoral land ownership (land abutting a body of water) is, by definition, constantly changing due to erosion and accretion.  Laws related to the transient nature of littoral ownership boundaries have been developed over many centuries of British and American law and have evolved to apply a level of equity to ownership of changing landforms.  Current, well-established  law holds that an upland owner gains any land deposited adjacent to his property and loses any land eroded away.  But the actual application of the laws to specific situations can become very complicated and often results in litigation.


The proposed legislation will add a layer of complexity to the determination of littoral ownership boundaries.  H-254 would create a special law to be applied in very specific circumstances.  When a “barrier beach” moves into a Great Pond (a pond over 10 acres that is owned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts), the newly created land would become the property of the Commonwealth and not the abutting land owner (as would be the case under current law).  This will be a new complication on a complicated issue.


This bill can certainly be viewed as a taking against private citizens because, under the new bill, the public would own any new land created instead of the private land owners as under the existing law.


Although the name of the bill “an act preserving public trust rights in land affected by ocean erosion” sounds very positive and beneficial for the public, I fail to see how this goal will be accomplished.  First of all, there are very limited situations when it would actually create new public land.  The public would not have any means of accessing the new land because it would be isolated from any existing public land (except the Great Pond).  And if we look at the situation more broadly, we see that, as they are want to do, barrier beaches will continue moving landward, through the Great Pond, and will eventually occupy an area that was previously dry land.  In that case, the proposed law would have absolutely no effect.


Furthermore, the bill is poorly worded.  One of the critical features, “barrier beach” is not defined.  The term “any other public land” is not defined and I’m not sure what affect a barrier beach moving into “other public land” would have anyway.  There is no specified date on which the law will go into effect.  Is it intended to apply to all movements of barrier beaches, past and future, or will it only apply after the effective date of the law?


For these reasons, I ask that you oppose House Bill #254.  Thank you and please feel free contact me if you have any questions regarding MALSCE’s position on this bill.


Sincerely yours,

David W. Humphrey, PLS

MALSCE President


Schofield Brother of New England, Inc.
1071 Worcester Road
Framingham, MA   01701
508-879-0030  x234

Cc: Representatives Naughton, O’Day, Smizik, Dykema
Senators Chandler, Spilka
Abbie Goodman, MALSCE


Senator Harriette L. Chandler
Majority Whip
Room 312C


Senator Karen Spilka
Assistant Majority Whip
Room 511C


Representative Harold P. Naughton, Jr
Room 167


Representative Frank I. Smizik
Room 274


Representative Carolyn C. Dykema
Room 473F


Representative James J. O'Day
Vice Chair, House Committee on Bills in the Third Reading
Room 42



Sustaining Members








One Walnut Street, Boston, MA 02108-3616

Tel. 617-227-5551 Fax. 617-227-6783

Copyright 2017 by the Massachusetts Association of Land Surveyors and Civil Engineers. All rights reserved.

Supported by the Staff of