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Who owns your beach? Four lines in the sand

By Staff | Feb 26, 2019

Ownership of the land and sand in front of your Captiva home can be confusing. There are four lines in the sand that you need to know about: Coastal Construction Control Line, Mean High Water Line, Erosion Control Line and Land Survey Property Boundaries.

– Coastal Construction Control Line: The Coastal Construction Control Line is the current regulatory line established by the state that defines the portion of the beach dune system subject to severe fluctuations based on a 100-year storm surge, storm waves or other weather conditions. This line is sometimes referred to as the Coastal Construction Setback Line, or CCSL, that was established in 1978 and subsequently revised in 1991 as the current CCCL. The CCCL places regulatory constraints on construction seaward of the line that provides protection for Florida’s beaches and dunes, while assuring reasonable use of private property. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection regulates construction of structures and activities seaward of the CCCL which can cause beach erosion, destabilize dunes, damage upland properties or interfere with public access. Property may not be modified or constructed seaward of this line without approval from the Florida DEP. Also, the Florida Building Code establishes a base flood elevation for buildings located seaward of the CCCL. Lee County has recently modified the Land Development Code to establish a prohibition on any construction seaward of the old CCSL, with certain exceptions for public access.

– Mean High Water Line: The Mean High Water Line is the average of all high-water heights measured over a 19-year epoch. The MHWL is the boundary between the foreshore immediately bordering navigable waters owned by the state and upland that is privately owned. It is critical in determining the Erosion Control Line, or ECL, prior to the construction of a beach restoration project.

– Erosion Control Line: The Erosion Control Line establishes the boundary of upland ownership by the state when a beach restoration project is constructed. Courts have ruled sand added to the beach seaward of the ECL is owned by the state and held in trust for the public. It was established based on the location of the Mean High Water Line, or MHWL, at the time of construction. However, landowners retain the right to have access to the water, the right to reasonable use of the water, the right to accretion and reliction, and the right to the unobstructed view of the water. In other words, the ECL is the fixed property line between private and public lands. A landowner does not own this part of the beach in front of the property and the land seaward of this line does not convey with a sale of the adjacent upland parcel.

– Land Survey Property Boundary Line: A land survey is an important document for property owners because it shows the limits of fee simple ownership and property boundaries. A survey may also show easements, land improvements, roads, flood zone classification and water boundaries. However, it often does not depict the Coastal Construction Control Line, the Mean High Water Line or the Erosion Control Line, and without these lines shown, you may think you own more land in front of your home than you legally do.

Established in 1959, the Captiva Erosion Prevention District is an independent special beach and shore preservation district. It is governed by an independently elected district board authorized to carry out the CEPD comprehensive beach and shore preservation program. It provides beach erosion control and preservation activities for the protection, preservation and restoration of Captiva’s sandy beach. For more information, call 239-472-2472 or visit mycepd.com.