Most of the land in Maine that is covered with water is publicly
owned. Historically, this public ownership dates back to Colonial
times when these lands were reserved as a public trust. That
is, everyone had a right to use them for "fishing, fowling
(hunting), and "navigation". These were considered
essential public rights, and the State of Maine has retained
these rights, and included public access and recreation, as
have most other states.
Piers and other structures located
on submerged lands may be privately owned; the land and water
beneath them are not.
What We Do:
- Administer leases and easements for structures located on submerged lands.
- Administer the sunken log salvage program.
- Offering opportunities
for qualified companies and individuals to salvage sunken
logs from publicly owned submerged lands.
- For more information
view the Sunken
Log Salvage Rules. - PDF (33KB)
Publicly Owned Submerged Lands - as defined by the State of Maine:
Coastal region (including islands): All land from
the mean low-water mark out
to the three mile territorial limit. Where intertidal
flats are extensive, the shoreward boundary begins 1,650
feet seaward from the mean high-water mark.
Tidal Rivers: All land below the mean low-water
mark of tidal rivers upstream to the farthest natural
reaches of the tides.
Great Ponds: All land below the natural low-water
mark of ponds that are 10 or more acres in size in their
Boundary Rivers: Land lying between the banks
of rivers that form Maine's border with Canada.
Publicly owned submerged lands do not include:
- Beaches or
other shoreland that is covered by water only at high tide
- Land that has been flooded by dams
- Land beneath ponds that
are less than 10 acres in size, or
- Land beneath non-tidal rivers that do not border Canada
A Lease or Easement is Required for structures located on submerged land when:
- Existing use is being changed
- Size of an existing
structure is being changed
- New structures that will be permanent, are being built
- New seasonal
structures larger than 2,000 square feet and used for commercial
fishing related purposes, or larger than 500 square feet for
any other purpose
- Leases or easements are also required for
pipelines, utility cables, outfall/intake pipes, and dredging.
To Qualify for a Lease or Easement:
- Proposed use cannot
have adverse impacts on:
- Access to or over the waters of the
- Public trust rights - fishing, waterfowl hunting, navigation,
and recreation; and/or
- Services and facilities for commercial marine activities.
Lease or Easement?
The size and nature of the project determines whether a lease,
which has an annual rental fee, or an easement, which has
a registration fee, is required.
The Division will usually not approve leases or easements for:
- Filling submerged land
- Activities that could take place
on the upland such as offices, parking space, restaurants,
The Division may place special conditions on the terms of a
lease or easement when traditional and customary public uses
are diminished. Projects may be required to include public
walkways or boatramps; navigational improvements; publicly
accessible space for fishing, sight-seeing, waterfowl hunting,
or recreation; and/or protection of important commercial fishing
and water dependent activities.
Structures that were in place prior to October 1, 1975 were granted constructive easements that expired on September 30, 2005. New leases or easements from the Division are required to legally occupy the submerged lands where the structure is located. Applications are available from the Division to replace constructive easements with a new lease or easement.
For Lease Application process, including related fees, and information regarding the management of submerged
Application Forms are available from the Division of Parks and Public Lands.
For more information about submerged lands, contact:
Submerged Lands Program
Maine Division of Parks and Public Lands
22 State House Station
Augusta, Maine 04333-0022
Telephone: (207) 287-3061
Fax: (207) 287-8111