Michigan Riparian Owner Rights

In Michigan, a riparian owner's title to property extends to the center of an inland lake or stream. West Michigan Dock & Market Corp v. Lakeland Investments, 210 Mich App 505, 509; 534 NW2d 212 (1995). When apportioning relicted land, the key consideration should be fairness. Mumaugh v. McCarley, 219 Mich App 641, 647; 558 NW2d 433 (1996). Each riparian owner should be apportioned a share of the new lakefront that is proportionate to that owner's prior lakefront ownership. Mumaugh, supra at 647. The method used to determine ownership of lands formed by reliction depends somewhat upon the shape of the body of water involved. Gregory v. LaFaive, 172 Mich App 354, 362; 431 NW2d 511 (1988) at 362. If the lake is circular, the shoreline is the base and the center line is the vertex of a triangle. If the lake is oblong the lines are drawn perpendicular to a median center. If neither of these methods are sic possible, the lake bed is divided in proportion to the shoreline owned. the theory on all events is that the shore owners take ratably. Id., quoting 6 Thompson on Real Property (1962 Replacement), 3078, 1965 Supp, p 18, as quoted in Weisenburger v. Kirkwood, 7 Mich App 283, 291; 151 NW2d 889 (1967). Thus, riparian boundaries on an oblong lake affected by reliction are established by drawing a line from the point where the original sideline met the original shore line, perpendicular to the median line center of the lake. West Michigan Dock, supra at 510.