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Author Topic: Update River Boundaries  (Read 1387 times)

triplemultiplex

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Update River Boundaries
« on: February 27, 2018, 04:16:51 PM »

Let's play with this idea; adjusting borders that were drawn in rivers so they match the modern channel.

As I'm sure many know, when a boundary between states or counties (or even countries) is selected to be a river or stream, it often becomes set in stone.  Decades or centuries later, the lateral migration of the stream channel creates these awkward enclaves, or "islands" of one territory that are effectively inaccessible except through another territory.

I propose that these boundaries be readjusted to once again follow the river and eliminate these oddities.  Why?  Some low level OCD maybe.  Indulge me.
Practically speaking, I don't think much would change.  All of these areas are flood plains with maybe some agricultural use.  Many end up being part of wildlife areas or other public lands since nothing can be built there without levees and stuff.

While we're at it, let's end this old-timey silliness of claiming the far bank of a stream as your boundary (Kentucky!).  I will introduce a hydrology term here: thalweg.  The thalweg is the point at a given cross-section of a stream where the most volume of water is moving.  The thalweg is not necessarily the deepest point in that cross section, but it often is.  For this purpose, it would be an objectively measurable way to determine where the actual boundary should go, provided it's measured at some mean discharge.

These boundaries could be revisited every quarter century or so to keep them up to date.
There would be some rules about purposefully rerouting a border stream with the intent of getting more land for one's territorial unit.

Pull up Google Earth, turn on the borders layer and have fun looking at what would change.
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TXtoNJ

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Re: Update River Boundaries
« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2018, 04:26:00 PM »

Agreed, but let's calque thalweg into its English equivalent - daleway
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CNGL-Leudimin

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Re: Update River Boundaries
« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2018, 04:49:34 PM »

It already happens with international boundaries. It is commonly agreed that if a boundary river naturally changes its course, the border follows suit. However, should a boundary river change its course due to external forces (i.e. an earthquake, a landslide or human intervention) the border doesn't move.

But this definitely doesn't apply to state borders. If they were like international ones, then we'd have Carter Lake NE.
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Re: Update River Boundaries
« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2018, 05:08:09 PM »

It already happens with international boundaries. It is commonly agreed that if a boundary river naturally changes its course, the border follows suit. However, should a boundary river change its course due to external forces (i.e. an earthquake, a landslide or human intervention) the border doesn't move.

Not always.  There have to be negotiations first and a treaty agreement.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chamizal_dispute
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boundary_Treaty_of_1970
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Re: Update River Boundaries
« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2018, 05:23:22 PM »

Texas and Oklahoma did that.  The state line is the south vegetation line.  The south half of the river channel is in Oklahoma but belongs to Indian tribes and is held in trust by the federal government.  North of the center belongs to the state or private owners.  Within Lake Texoma, the state line is the south vegetation line as it existed and was mapped by the Corps of Engineers before the dam was built.  Other than that, as the vegetation line moves, by accretion, erosion, or even avulsion, the state line moves with it.  The problem of private land ownership near the river was the subject of a court settlement that also dictates that the river constitutes the boundary.
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Scott5114

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Re: Update River Boundaries
« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2018, 05:34:01 PM »

Practically speaking, I don't think much would change.  All of these areas are flood plains with maybe some agricultural use.  Many end up being part of wildlife areas or other public lands since nothing can be built there without levees and stuff.

A whole hell of a lot would change if you owned the land affected. If your land goes from Illinois to Missouri, suddenly your governor goes from Bruce Rauner to Eric Greitens, and your US Senate representation goes from Durbin and Duckworth to McCaskill and Blunt. You didn't vote for any of these people. You've been moved from a blue state to a red state on a Presidental level.

More importantly than the politics, you're under a completely different constitution and set of laws, you have to get a new driver license and replate your car, an entirely different set of state agencies and regulatory procedures applies to you (important if you're doing "some agricultural use"). Since you didn't vote for any of the policymakers that enacted the fees and regulations, it's the definition of "taxation without representation" until the next election. It's not really fair to the locals, either, to have this random weirdo from another state suddenly tacked onto their electorate.

So that's a hell of a lot of disruption for the people affected, and what do we gain? Nicer looking maps? A few thousand dollars in savings from government officials not having to cross the river to administer the remote part of their jurisdiction?

Texas and Oklahoma did that.  The state line is the south vegetation line.  The south half of the river channel is in Oklahoma but belongs to Indian tribes and is held in trust by the federal government.  North of the center belongs to the state or private owners.  Within Lake Texoma, the state line is the south vegetation line as it existed and was mapped by the Corps of Engineers before the dam was built.  Other than that, as the vegetation line moves, by accretion, erosion, or even avulsion, the state line moves with it.  The problem of private land ownership near the river was the subject of a court settlement that also dictates that the river constitutes the boundary.

And, of course, the definition of the border is exactly what allowed the ridiculous Bridge War between Texas and Oklahoma to take place. If Governor Murray hadn't been able to assert jurisdiction over the south end of the bridge, things wouldn't have been able to escalate. (Wait, of course they would have, it was Governor Murray. But still.)
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Buck87

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Re: Update River Boundaries
« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2018, 05:35:39 PM »

Kentucky would lose the Ellis Park Horse Track to Indiana 
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Re: Update River Boundaries
« Reply #7 on: February 27, 2018, 07:29:31 PM »

The boundary of Kentucky was set way back when it was Virginia.. don't blame Kentucky

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Re: Update River Boundaries
« Reply #8 on: February 27, 2018, 07:37:35 PM »

Agreed, but let's calque thalweg into its English equivalent - daleway
Thalweg is an English word.. from the spelling I would guess it's an Old English term. 

Wikipedia suggests the word is of German origin. Either way, I don't see the need to come up with a further-anglicized version of the word. English is a bastardized mish-mash of words from several languagesódo you take issue with the many English words that have etymologies rooted in French or Latin? Seems to me like unnecessary puritanism.

But, back on topic, while I like the concept of adjusting borders to follow rivers, as Scott points out there are a lot of legal and practical implications that make it prohibitively difficult and potentially in violation of some legal rights.

Edit: Furthermore, such jurisdictional shifts have little practical application. Transferring the field inside an avulsed river bend from one state to another is going to do nothing of tangible benefit and create unnecessary bureaucracy.
« Last Edit: February 27, 2018, 07:52:57 PM by MNHighwayMan »
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jwolfer

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Re: Update River Boundaries
« Reply #9 on: February 27, 2018, 07:49:05 PM »

Agreed, but let's calque thalweg into its English equivalent - daleway
Thalweg is an English word.. from the spelling I would guess it's an Old English term. 

Wikipedia suggests the word is of German origin. Either way, I don't see the need to come up with a further-anglicized version of the word. English is a bastardized mish-mash of words from several languagesódo you take issue with the many English words that have etymologies rooted in French or Latin? Seems to me like unnecessary puritanism.

But, back on topic, while I like the concept of adjusting borders to follow rivers, as Scott points out there are a lot of legal and practical implications that make it prohibitively difficult and potentially in violation of some legal rights.
It is of German origin.. remember English is a Germanic language, with lots of borrowing from French. Old English was much closer to German in sound and grammer

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Buck87

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Re: Update River Boundaries
« Reply #10 on: February 27, 2018, 08:31:41 PM »

Ohio's border along the Ohio River doesn't have have any abnormalities due to the river changing course. However, if the "thalweg" rule was applied, there would be one major change to the Ohio/West Virginia Border: giving Wheeling Island from WV to OH.

Wheeling Island has a population around 3,000 people, is the home of the Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack, and is also the location of Wheeling Island Stadium, the homefield of Wheeling's only public High School as well as the West Virginia Football State Championships. 
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Re: Update River Boundaries
« Reply #11 on: February 27, 2018, 09:12:40 PM »

It already happens with international boundaries. It is commonly agreed that if a boundary river naturally changes its course, the border follows suit. However, should a boundary river change its course due to external forces (i.e. an earthquake, a landslide or human intervention) the border doesn't move.

But this definitely doesn't apply to state borders. If they were like international ones, then we'd have Carter Lake NE.

Actually, there is a difference depending on how the river changes course (or at least as I remember from an international law course in law school). Gradual changes by "accretion", where land builds up on one bank and is eroded away from the other, means the border moves with the river. Sudden changes by "avulsion", such as by a river cutting through a bend, means the boundary doesn't change. That's how Carter Lake IA and many stranded parcels along the Mississippi River were created. "Avulsion" can occur through normal hydrologic processes such as floods, it doesn't require an extraordinary external or unnatural event. Similar principles apply to international boundaries, state and county boundaries, and even boundaries between privately-owned parcels, though the international boundaries are sometimes governed or settled by treaties.

BTW, I agree with Scott that adjusting river boundaries is a royal PITA to all concerned, and not worth it. Especially since rivers don't stop moving, unless you do what the U.S. and Mexico did as part of the settlement of their Chamizal border dispute in El Paso/Ciudad Juarez, which was to build a giant and ugly concrete trench to make sure the Rio Grande would never move again between those cities.
« Last Edit: February 28, 2018, 01:06:03 PM by oscar »
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KEVIN_224

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Re: Update River Boundaries
« Reply #12 on: February 28, 2018, 09:15:46 AM »

New Hampshire is funny with some of their river borders. The west shore of the Connecticut River is the border between either Hinsdale or Chesterfield, NH crossing into Brattleboro, VT. The same applies further north when crossing from Lebanon into Hartford, VT (really the village of White River Junction). I think that's part of the reason New Hampshire didn't have their state line sign up on the I-95 bridge between Portsmouth and Kittery, ME for several years. At present, Maine has their welcome sign at the middle of the bridge heading north/east.

The Connecticut River seems to be no huge deal between Hartford and East Hartford, CT. The town line is simply noted at mid-span on the Founders Bridge, which carries CT Route 2 near its western terminus.
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jp the roadgeek

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Re: Update River Boundaries
« Reply #13 on: February 28, 2018, 09:24:17 AM »

Another odd one is the NJ/DE boundary. South of the NJ/PA/DE tri-point in the middle of the river, it shifts to the NJ shore, and even clips portions of the NJ side of the river so that they are part of DE, then it suddenly shifts back to the middle of the river, and eventually the bay.  The boundary has partially to do with the 12 mile arc that also denoted the curved northern boundary with PA.
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Re: Update River Boundaries
« Reply #14 on: February 28, 2018, 12:48:39 PM »

IMHO,

The primary issues would be as noted above, Ellis Park.  The rest of the lands involved just flood plain land of limited value.

As to Wheeling Island and all the rest, the reason for this is that Virginia, from which Kentucky and West Virginia came, only ceded to the national government the "territory north-west of the River Ohio".  Why Ohio, Indiana or Illinois would WANT a part of the Ohio is beyond me.  The navigation rights were ceded to the federal government when the river was "canalized" in the new deal and thus became a part of the "waters of the United States" which provides for federal jurisdiction, and taxation, of the boats; and the bridges are mostly federal money anyway, and the Old Northwest states often agree (more with Kentucky than West Virginia) to pay a part anyway.  All we are talking about would be who gets to inspect the bridge and write speeding tickets. 

BTW, not a river, but the border between Louden County, VA and Jefferson County, WV was not final until 1997.  What eventually became the line was simply described as "the crest of the Blue Ridge" by Colonial Virginia legislators, who had no survey to work with.  This remained unimportant until the sprawl development of DC reached that far and then there was a confusing quilt of opinions between residents, taxers, schools, cops, phone companies, the USPS, and so on as to exactly where the line was.  The eventually surveyed it, but granted all sorts of special grandfather privilidges to people that found themselves or their stuff in the "wrong" state.  IIRC, NC and SC had a similar deal more recently.
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hbelkins

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Re: Update River Boundaries
« Reply #15 on: February 28, 2018, 03:07:24 PM »

There are some funky curvatures in the border between Ohio and West Virginia along the river between Huntington and Point Pleasant (or Chesapeake and Gallipolis, if you prefer.) There's one near Crown City, Ohio; but this one upstream especially stands out:

https://goo.gl/maps/drEumsoDs462

(If this site enabled iFrames, I could post the actual map instead of just a link to it.)
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Life in Paradise

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Re: Update River Boundaries
« Reply #16 on: February 28, 2018, 03:19:36 PM »

IMHO,

 The bridges are mostly federal money anyway, and the Old Northwest states often agree (more with Kentucky than West Virginia) to pay a part anyway.  All we are talking about would be who gets to inspect the bridge and write speeding tickets. 

The bridges are not just mostly federal money these days.  Just like interstate highway construction anymore, most of the funds come from the state governments.
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Re: Update River Boundaries
« Reply #17 on: February 28, 2018, 03:51:16 PM »

(If this site enabled iFrames, I could post the actual map instead of just a link to it.)

Code: [Select]
http://maps.googleapis.com/maps/api/staticmap?center=42.7436,-71.1615&zoom=16&size=650x600&maptype=satellite
(remove "&maptype=satellite" for a non-satellite map)
« Last Edit: September 01, 2018, 10:43:34 PM by 1 »
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Re: Update River Boundaries
« Reply #18 on: February 28, 2018, 04:38:09 PM »

Quote from: KEVIN_224
New Hampshire is funny with some of their river borders. The west shore of the Connecticut River is the border between either Hinsdale or Chesterfield, NH crossing into Brattleboro, VT. The same applies further north when crossing from Lebanon into Hartford, VT (really the village of White River Junction).

Except for a tiny bit just north of the 45th Parallel between the Connecticut River and Halls Stream, the border between New Hampshire and Vermont is defined as the mean low water mark on the Vermont side of the Connecticut River, the result of an early 1930s U.S. Supreme Court decision (itself based in a 1764 legal decree from King George III's court).  State law in both states mandates that the Attorney Generals of each state reaffirm the location every 7 years....it'll be due next year.

There are other similar colonial-era (and subsequent U.S. Supreme Court decision) boundary conclusions, specifically between Virginia/West Virginia and Maryland.  The border between Virginia/West Virginia and Maryland was defined/designated as the mean low water mark on the Potomac River (plus the Northern branch of such) on the Virginia side...in other words, Maryland (and D.C. where appropriate) "owns" the river.  The dispute stems from the fact that the Potomac does a slight U-turn near its source.  The Supreme Court ruled in 1910 that the source location (marked by the Fairfax Stone since 1746) marks Maryland's western extent.
« Last Edit: February 28, 2018, 04:47:44 PM by froggie »
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MNHighwayMan

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Re: Update River Boundaries
« Reply #19 on: February 28, 2018, 05:51:33 PM »

Except for a tiny bit just north of the 45th Parallel between the Connecticut River and Halls Stream, the border between New Hampshire and Vermont is defined as the mean low water mark on the Vermont side of the Connecticut River, the result of an early 1930s U.S. Supreme Court decision (itself based in a 1764 legal decree from King George III's court).  State law in both states mandates that the Attorney Generals of each state reaffirm the location every 7 years....it'll be due next year.

Attorneys general, not attorney generals. /slight pet peeve of mine

But that's actually really interesting. I love learning about how borders are formed, just because in a lot of cases there's some unusual stuff behind them, like that.
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hbelkins

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Re: Update River Boundaries
« Reply #20 on: February 28, 2018, 08:18:11 PM »

Quote from: KEVIN_224
New Hampshire is funny with some of their river borders. The west shore of the Connecticut River is the border between either Hinsdale or Chesterfield, NH crossing into Brattleboro, VT. The same applies further north when crossing from Lebanon into Hartford, VT (really the village of White River Junction).

Except for a tiny bit just north of the 45th Parallel between the Connecticut River and Halls Stream, the border between New Hampshire and Vermont is defined as the mean low water mark on the Vermont side of the Connecticut River, the result of an early 1930s U.S. Supreme Court decision (itself based in a 1764 legal decree from King George III's court).  State law in both states mandates that the Attorney Generals of each state reaffirm the location every 7 years....it'll be due next year.

There are other similar colonial-era (and subsequent U.S. Supreme Court decision) boundary conclusions, specifically between Virginia/West Virginia and Maryland.  The border between Virginia/West Virginia and Maryland was defined/designated as the mean low water mark on the Potomac River (plus the Northern branch of such) on the Virginia side...in other words, Maryland (and D.C. where appropriate) "owns" the river.  The dispute stems from the fact that the Potomac does a slight U-turn near its source.  The Supreme Court ruled in 1910 that the source location (marked by the Fairfax Stone since 1746) marks Maryland's western extent.

And interestingly enough, the first road crossing of the Potomac is a culvert that is completely in West Virginia. During CPZ's Corridor H meet, we visited the Fairfax Stone and the first true bridge across the river that marked a state boundary.
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