Over in Craig County some landowners with large holdings have filed a lawsuit against the Commonwealth of Virginia that has the potential to block public use of rivers and streams over the entire state.
The legal complaint is against the Virginia Marine Resources Commission that regulates rivers and creeks that are navigable. Navigable waters are under the authority of the commonwealth, and it is presumed that the state “owns” the river bottoms and the right to fish in navigable waters, which makes them available for the public to enjoy.
The complaint is by Briar Oak Properties LLC and Briar Oak Farms LLC. These limited liability companies claim to own the river bottoms and can control their use and are seeking a court order declaring the same. This would have major implications.
One example might be the creekside owners upstream who today can float the creek would have to get permission from the companies to float past the property in question. Worse, if the VMRC authority were changed, upstream owners might have to get permission from all the creekside owners for some 45 miles downstream.
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As you can imagine, this would be impossible.
Property owners upstream and downstream of the Briar Oaks property may want to advise the court to reject the claim of river bottom ownership lest they are left literally high and dry.
Anyone who wants to fish or float the creek should let their voices be heard. Cases like this have the potential of excluding the public from any recreational rights to use the rivers or creeks in Virginia.
If you are interested in preserving public rights to use the waters of the state, please contact Friends of Craig Creek to assist.
Bill Tanger, Hollins