(1) Except submerged lands heretofore conveyed by deed or statute, the title to all sovereignty tidal and submerged bottom lands, including all islands, sandbars, shallow banks, and small islands made by the process of dredging any channel by the United States Government and similar or other islands, sandbars, and shallow banks located in the navigable waters, and including all coastal and intracoastal waters of the state and all submerged lands owned by the state by right of its sovereignty in navigable freshwater lakes, rivers, and streams, is vested in the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund. For purposes of fixing bulkhead lines, restrictions on filling land and dredging beyond bulkhead lines, and permits required for filling and dredging, the board shall exercise the same authority over submerged lands owned by the state by right of its sovereignty in navigable freshwater lakes, rivers, and streams as it does over submerged lands otherwise defined in this subsection.
(2)(a) The Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund may sell and convey such islands and submerged lands if determined by the board to be in the public interest, upon such prices, terms, and conditions as it sees fit. However, prior to consummating any such sale, the board shall determine to what extent the sale of such islands or submerged lands and their ownership by private persons or the conveyance of such islands or submerged lands to political subdivisions or public agencies would interfere with the conservation of fish, marine and other wildlife, or other natural resources, including beaches and shores, and would result in destruction of oyster beds, clam beds, or marine productivity, including, but not limited to, destruction of marine habitats, grass flats suitable as nursery or feeding grounds for marine life, and established marine soils suitable for producing plant growth of a type useful as nursery or feeding grounds for marine life, and if so, in what respect and to what extent, and it shall consider any other factors affecting the public interests.
(b) In addition to the requirements in paragraph (a), the board shall not sell or convey any interest in such islands and submerged lands to any applicant who does not, at the time of making application for purchase or conveyance, also have before the board:
1. An application for the establishment of a bulkhead line, in the event no bulkhead line is established for the lands subject to the application; and
2. An application for approval of a fill permit issued in accordance with the provisions of this chapter; and
3. A permit or application for a permit to dredge fill material from beneath the navigable waters of the state, in accordance with the provisions of this chapter, in the event the applicant intends to secure such fill material. However, such islands or submerged lands may be sold or conveyed to an applicant who does not have such an application for a permit to dredge or fill lands before the board, upon the condition that the sale or conveyance to such an applicant shall contain a restrictive covenant prohibiting dredging, except for navigation purposes, or filling of such islands or submerged lands. The board shall reserve the authority to waive such restrictive covenant when such waiver is in the public interest, pursuant to such terms and conditions as the board may impose.
(3) After receiving application in compliance with such forms as may be required to show clearly what is intended to be accomplished in any proposed development of said lands and the manner in which said development will be accomplished, and after making the determination required by paragraph (2)(a), the board shall give notice as provided by s. 253.115.
(4) If objections are filed, the board shall proceed to determine the merits of the objections. The report required by subsection (7) shall be made part of the record and duly considered at any hearing. If it appears that the sale of such islands and submerged lands and their ownership by private persons or the conveyance of such islands or submerged lands to political subdivisions or public agencies would:
(a) Be contrary to the public interest;
(b) Interfere with the lawful rights granted riparian owners;
(c) Be, or result in, a serious impediment to navigation;
(d) Interfere with the conservation of fish, marine and other wildlife, or other natural resources, including beaches and shores, to such an extent as to be contrary to the public interest; or
(e) Result in the destruction of oyster beds, clam beds, or marine productivity, including, but not limited to, destruction of natural marine habitats, grass flats suitable as nursery or feeding grounds for marine life, and established marine soils suitable for producing plant growth of a type useful as nursery or feeding grounds for marine life to such an extent as to be contrary to the public interest,
the board shall withdraw the lands from sale. Prior to making the determinations above required, the board may consider any other factors affecting the public interest. Anything in this section to the contrary notwithstanding, lands defined herein lying between the ordinary mean high-water line and any bulkhead line established hereunder shall be sold only to the upland riparian owner and to no other person, firm, or corporation; and such sale to the upland riparian owner shall be made pursuant to the provisions herein.
(5)(a) When any state agency or county, city, or other political subdivision extends or adds to existing lands or islands bordering on or being in the navigable waters, as defined in this section, of the state by filling in or causing to be filled in or by draining or causing to be drained such waters, the board may, upon application therefor, convey to the riparian owner or owners of the upland so extended or added to so much of such extended or added land as is not required exclusively for a municipal, county, state, or other public purpose. The board may, however, require a deposit to accompany such application of a sum sufficient to cover the actual cost and expenses of processing such application and preparing instruments of conveyance.
(b) Neither this subsection nor any other provision of this chapter shall be construed to permit any state agency or county, city, or other political subdivision to construct islands or extend or add to existing lands or islands bordering on or being in the navigable waters as defined herein or drain such waters for a municipal, county, state, or other public purpose unless such agency is the riparian upland owner or holds the consent in writing of the riparian upland owner consenting to such construction or extension or drainage operation. For the purposes of this subsection, “riparian upland owners” shall be defined as those persons owning upland property abutting those portions of the waters to be filled or drained, which are within 1,000 feet outboard of said riparian upland, but not more than one-half the distance to the opposite upland, if any, and within the extensions of the side boundary lines thereof, when said side boundary lines are extended in the direction of the channel along an alignment which would be required to distribute equitably the submerged land between the upland and the channel. However, nothing herein shall be construed to deny or limit any state agency or county, city, or other political subdivision from exercising the right of eminent domain to the extent and for the purposes authorized by law in connection with such construction, extension, or drainage projects; and nothing herein shall be construed to have application in those instances when the board is authorized by law to establish an erosion control line to implement an authorized beach nourishment, replenishment, or erosion-control project, or for the placement of sand dredged from navigation channels on beaches fronting the waters of the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico, provided such sand is not placed landward of existing lines of vegetation.
(6) Where any person, state agency, county, city, or other political subdivision prior to June 11, 1957, extended or added to existing lands or islands bordering on or being in the navigable waters as defined in this section by filling in or causing to be filled in such lands, the board shall upon application therefor convey said land so filled to the riparian owner or owners of the upland so extended or added to. The consideration for such conveyance shall be the appraised value of said lands as they existed prior to such filling.
(7)(a) In order to assist it in making the determination required by paragraph (2)(a), the board shall require that a biological survey and an ecological study of the lands or interests therein proposed to be sold or conveyed pursuant to any particular application be made, and, when determined by the Department of Environmental Protection to be necessary, that a hydrographic survey be made. All such surveys and studies shall be made by or under the direction of the Department of Environmental Protection, which shall make a report of all such surveys and studies to the board together with its recommendations. The board may adopt regulations requiring that the cost of making any such survey and report be paid by the applicant for purchase of such lands, requiring a deposit by the applicant sufficient to ensure such payment, and providing procedures to be followed in applying for and obtaining such survey and report.
(b) If, in accordance with the provisions of paragraph (2)(b), the surveys and study required by paragraph (a) have already been made, the provisions of this section shall not operate to require an applicant to pay for any additional surveys or studies within 3 years prior to the issuance of such permit.
(8) All conveyances of sovereignty lands or fill material therein heretofore made by the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund of Florida subsequent to the enactment of chapter 6451, Acts of 1913, chapter 7304, Acts of 1917, and chapter 57-362, as amended, are hereby ratified, confirmed, and validated in all respects.
1(9) All of the state’s right, title, and interest to all tidally influenced land or tidally influenced islands bordering or being on sovereignty land, which have been permanently extended, filled, added to existing lands, or created before July 1, 1975, by fill, and might be owned by the state, is hereby granted to the landowner having record or other title to all or a portion thereof or to the lands immediately upland thereof and its successors in interest. Thereafter, such lands shall be considered private property, and the state, its political subdivisions, agencies, and all persons claiming by, through, or under any of them, shall be barred from asserting that any such lands are publicly owned sovereignty lands. The foregoing provisions shall act to transfer title only to so much of such extended or added land as was permanently exposed, extended, or added to before July 1, 1975. A showing of dates by which certain lands were filled or added to may be made by aerial photograph or other reasonable method. Upon request of the landowner and submission of a proposed legal description and aerial photographs or other evidence accompanied by a fee set by the board reflecting the actual administrative cost of processing, the board shall provide an appropriate legal description of the waterward boundary line as of July 1, 1975, in a recordable document. The Legislature specifically finds and declares these grants to be in the public interest. The boundary between state-owned sovereignty lands and privately owned uplands is ambulatory and will move as a result of nonavulsive changes. This subsection shall not grant or vest title to any filled, formerly submerged state-owned lands in any person who, as of January 1, 1993, is the record titleholder of the filled or adjacent upland property and who filled or caused to be filled the state-owned lands.
1(10) Subsection (9) shall not operate to affect the title to lands which have been judicially adjudicated or which were the subject of litigation pending on January 1, 1993, involving title to such lands. Further, the provisions of subsection (9) shall not apply to spoil islands nor to any lands which are included on an official acquisition list, on July 1, 1993, of a state agency or water management district for conservation, preservation, or recreation, nor to lands maintained as state or local recreation areas or shore protection structures.
History.—s. 1, ch. 7304, 1917; RGS 1061; CGL 1391; ss. 1, 2, ch. 26776, 1951; s. 1, ch. 57-362; s. 2, ch. 61-119; s. 1, ch. 67-393; ss. 25, 27, 35, ch. 69-106; s. 1, ch. 69-308; s. 1, ch. 70-81; s. 1, ch. 70-97; s. 1, ch. 70-147; s. 1, ch. 70-439; s. 1, ch. 72-214; s. 23, ch. 78-95; s. 4, ch. 82-144; s. 122, ch. 83-217; s. 2, ch. 91-221; s. 81, ch. 93-206; ss. 72, 492, ch. 94-356.
1Note.—Section 82, ch. 93-206, provides that “[t]he conveyance of property under this act is intended to be complete and effective without reference to or compliance with other statutory provisions. The various statutory provisions dealing with or setting preconditions or procedures for the conveyance of state-owned property and sovereignty lands shall not apply to conveyance made pursuant to this section.”