State files lawsuit against feds over Knik River ownership dispute

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - The State of Alaska has filed a lawsuit against the federal Bureau of Land Management over an ownership dispute for a section of the Knik River.

The controversy surrounds who ultimately has authority over the submerged land between Friday Creek and the Knik Glacier. The state argues it’s been theirs since statehood, but the federal government argues, since it’s not a navigable passageway, it’s under BLM control.

When the State of Alaska was conveyed its land after statehood was granted, it was given ownership of navigable waterways within state boundaries.

“I would have preferred to avoid litigation, but the federal government refused to recognize the State’s rights to these lands and waters,” Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth wrote in a press release.

The area has been debated for decades, but since the BLM decided to convey that portion of the Knik River to the Eklutna Inc. native corporation as part of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, the state is suing, saying the u-s government can't transfer ownership of what they believe to be state land.

“Can you float a boat of sufficient size down this waterway so it can act as a highway of commerce?” assistant Alaska Attorney General Jessie Alloway said to sum up the question at hand. “The state has always believed it owns the submerged lands of the Knik River.”

The US government has 60 days to respond to the lawsuit.

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