United States of America v Alaska

CourtUnited States District Court (Alaska)
Date19 August 1964
United States, District Court, State of Alaska.
United States
and
State of Alaska.

State territory Parts of Bays Length of closing line defining internal waters of State Whether Alaska or United States has title to land underlying certain waters within natural headlands of Alaskan bay Policy of United States as to internal waters at time of admission of Alaska as State Effect of changed United States position reflected in Convention on the Territorial Sea The law of the United States of America.

The Facts.In July 1963, the State of Alaska published notice of its intention to accept sealed bids for oil and gas leases on land beneath Yakutat Bay, a bay whose base line or closing line (the line between the two natural entrance points) was seventeen geographical miles. Some of the lands offered for lease were claimed by the United States, and it filed an action to quiet title to and enjoin tresspasses on that land.

The United States contended that when Alaska was admitted as a state on January 3, 1959, the waters within a bay were recognized by the United States in its relations with foreign nations to be internal waters only if the closing line did not exceed ten geographical miles. The Assistant Legal Adviser of the Department of State submitted an affidavit to this effect. Therefore, the United States argued, waters of the bay beyond a ten-mile closing line within the natural headlands, and beyond a three-mile belt seaward of that closing line and of the shores of the bay, were not a part of Alaska when it was admitted to statehood. Section 2 of the Alaska Statehood Act of July 7, 1958 (72 Stat. 339), provided:

The State of Alaska shall consist of all the territory, together with the territorial waters appurtenant thereto, now included in the Territory of Alaska.

Any claims for further lands were relinquished by the vote of the people of Alaska when they accepted Section 8 (b) (2) of the Alaska Statehood Act of July 7, 1958 (72 Stat. 344), which read as follows:

(2) The boundaries of the State of Alaska shall be as prescribed in the Act of Congress approved (date of approval of this Act) [i.e., July 7, 1958] and all claims of this State to any areas of land or sea outside the boundaries so prescribed are hereby irrevocably relinquished to the United States.

The state of Alaska argued that its claim was governed by Article 7, Section 4, of the Convention on the Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zone adopted by the United Nations Conference on the Law of the...

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