Sand Rights, a Legal System to Protect the Shores of the Sea

by Katherine E. Stone, Burke, Williams & Sorensen, Los, Angeles, CA, USA,
Benjamin S. Kaufman, Burke, Williams & Sorensen, Los, Angeles, CA, USA,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Coastal Zone '87


The legal system of water rights in California is highly developed. So far, however, it has failed to recognize in any comprehensive fashion the importance of the sand which is transported to our beaches by streams and littoral currents. This paper argues that a system of 'sand rights' should be integrated into the existing legal framework. The focus is on California beaches, where an insufficient sand supply, coupled with two years of severe winter storms, cost billions of dollars in public and private property damage and badly hurt one of the State's prime recreational resources. Sand rights integrates two natural laws. One is physical - the natural transport of sand within the greater littoral cell. The other is societal - involving property rights based on natural law concepts dating back to early Roman times. A theory of sand rights would require that new water projects be designed and existing projects be reevaluated to mitigate interference with the system which transports sand to the beach. It would also provide a legal basis for funding sand replenishment through fees, taxes and assessments.

Subject Headings: California | United States

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