• Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that the federal government, not the states, had full dominion and mineral rights over the three-mile strip of submerged coastal lands.

The United States sued California in order to establish federal sovereignty over the offshore area three miles seaward from the low-water mark. Until then, the states had exercised de facto control over the area. The question was important because of huge oil and gas reserves that were being discovered. Speaking for a 6-3 majority, Justice Hugo L. BlackBlack, Hugo L.;California, United States v.[California, United States v.] found that the federal government had always possessed dominion over the entire coastal waters, even if it had allowed the states to control a three-mile strip. Black noted that the U.S. Constitution authorized Congress to decide the issue. Following an angry debate, Congress enacted the Submerged Lands ActSubmerged Lands Act of 1953, which gave title of the offshore lands to the coastal states.Tidelands oil controversy;California, United States v.[California, United States v.]

Powell v. Alabama

Public lands

Reversals of Court decisions by Congress

States’ rights and state sovereignty

Tidelands oil controversy

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