Reassessing the 3-Mile State/Federal Boundary

by Robert J. Wilder, UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Coastal Zone '91


The allocation of state versus federal authority offshore is critical in determining the complexion and pace of OCS oil and gas development. Yet, recurring drilling moratoria indicate that the present system based on geographic dual federalism offshore has broken down. This article examines the basis for the strict state/federal division by returning to the origins of the three-mile limit. It traces the several antecedents to the three-mile rule as found in the range of cannon, line-of-sight, and Scandinavian league. It then reviews the United States' adoption of a three-mile limit. This paper also examines issues in federalism that are presented by the Tidelands Controversy and by the 1953 passage of the Submerged Lands Act and Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. The author concludes that a system of shared governance would be appropriate for the new three to twelve-mile zone created by the territorial sea extension.

Subject Headings: Domain boundary | Federal government | Offshore drilling | Legislation | Non-renewable energy | Offshore platforms | Computer vision and image processing | Submerging

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