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Town of Oyster Bay v. Commander Oil Corporation

    Brief Fact Summary.

    The Town of Oyster Bay sued Commander Oil Corporation to prevent dredging in underwater land that was owned by the Town of Oyster Bay.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    A riparian owner has a right to dredge, as long as dredging is necessary and does not unreasonably interfere with other landowners’ rights.

    Facts.

    Commander Oil Operation owned a petroleum storage facility adjacent to Oyster Bay Harbor. The Town of Oyster Bay (Oyster Bay) owned the underwater land in Oyster Bay Harbor. Commander built a pier that extended from the land into the water and dredged the underwater land so that the water was adequately deep for its barges. Commander received permission for the dredging from Oyster Bay under a lease. When the lease was expired, Commander sought the permission of state and federal agencies to continue the dredging, instead of contacting Oyster Bay. Commander was permitted to dredge as long as it received permission from Oyster Bay. Oyster Bay sued Commander. The trial court allowed the dredging and the appellate court reversed, granting the town a permanent injunction.

    Issue.

    Does a riparian owner have a right to dredge, as long as dredging is necessary and does not unreasonably interfere with other landowners’ rights?

    Held.

    Yes. The ruling of the lower court is reversed and remanded. Oyster Bay should only prevent Commander from proceeding with the dredging if the dredging would destroy Oyster Bay’s landowner rights.

    Discussion.

    A riparian owner is defined as one who owns land next to a river, but is also known to be an owner who owns land next to water. The riparian doctrine allows riparian owners to access the bodies of water adjacent to their property.


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