Top 10 Changes to the minimum requirements for ALTA surveys

Aren’t all water features the same?

Water features (i.e. lakes, rivers, etc.) are often hot-button items as they relate to their impact on real property. Owners and developers are smart to take note of such features affecting their property as they may dictate things such as the use, zoning, development potential, and even success, of a particular piece of land.

Water features vary greatly from state to state, but in Minnesota, for example, the Land of 10,000 Lakes provides an abundance, ranging in all types and sizes. Lakes, rivers, springs, marshes, swamps, and ditches routinely show up on the properties that our clients pursue. With the 2016 ALTA standards in effect, not only do we see additional water features on the list (i.e. canals, ditches, marshes, and swamps), but the conditions regarding their proximity to the property are expanded. Water features are no longer limited to those forming a boundary or located on the subject property. It is now a requirement to locate features that are within five feet of the perimeter boundary.

The importance of understanding both the location and nature of a particular water feature on or near a particular piece of property cannot be understated. There are all types of scenarios pertaining to water features and their impacts to a property. In the Southwest where water is scarce, surface rights are extremely important. Both the east and west coasts are presented with their own unique challenges such as coastal marshlands and tidal changes. In the Midwest, projects both on and near the Mississippi, and other rivers, present challenges unique to the property’s proximity to the waterway. Those that adjoin a water boundary bring with them a myriad of scenarios dealing with such things as zoning, setbacks, and ownership. Rivers and streams are often used for logging and hydro-power, and in cases where a property is not directly on the river, but near the backwaters, title matters pertaining to flowage rights or easements are commonplace. 

The impact of water features varies greatly depending upon the piece of property. In some cases, a particular feature such as a ditch, which provides drainage to and from the property, may affect not only that particular property owner’s rights, but also those of the adjacent property owners. In other cases, a lake may provide the basis of a property boundary. When talking about water features, the conversation is no longer limited to what can be done with the property. Instead, the conversation is expanded to include a variety of issues and challenges such as access and drainage. Like the 2011 ALTA standards, the 2016 ALTA standards take great care in emphasizing the importance of water features upon the property being surveyed.  


Coming up next - #5: Have they cleared up the wetland confusion?

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