In most states the boundary separating public waters from
private uplands--the ordinary high water line (OHWL)--is a
flashpoint between proponents of either property rights or
public-trust protection of our water. Using Florida as a case
study, Down to the Waterline is the first book-length
analysis of the OHWL doctrine and its legal, technical, and
cultural underpinnings. Sara Warner not only covers the historical
function of the OHWL but tells how advances in science and our
environmental attitudes have led us to a more complex encounter
with this ancient boundary.
Florida sees a steady influx of new residents who crowd along
its extensive coasts and interior shorelines--yet who also demand
pristine water resources. The OHWL establishes public access and
private ownership limits on some of the state's most
valuable land: in economic terms, waterfront real estate; in
ecological terms, marshes and wetlands. Sara Warner brings to life
many of the courtroom battles fought over the OHWL through the
perspectives of ranchers, outdoors enthusiasts, developers,
surveyors, scientists, and policymakers.
While explaining the OHWL's legal and political
intricacies, Warner never loses sight of the wonder of herons
wading a marsh or a largemouth bass breaking a smooth lake surface.
To her the OHWL is not just an ideological battleground; it is a
marker of how we see the natural world. What do we think
we're doing when we channel a river or fill a swamp? she
asks--for it matters greatly where we focus our attention before
invoking the awesome capabilities of technology.
Subjects: Environmental Science, Law
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