(a) If any land is, by any process of nature or as a result of the erection of any pier, jetty or breakwater, raised above the high watermark of any navigable water, title thereto shall vest in the owner of that land which, immediately prior to the raising of the land in question, directly adjoined the navigable water. The tract, title to which is thus vested in a riparian owner, shall include only the front of his formerly riparian tract and shall be confined within extensions of his property lines, which extensions shall be perpendicular to the channel, or main watercourses.
(b) If any land is, by act of man, raised above the high watermark of any navigable water by filling, except such filling be to reclaim lands theretofore lost to the owner by natural causes or as otherwise provided under the proviso of subsection (d), title thereto shall vest in the State and the land so raised shall become a part of the vacant and unappropriated lands of the State, unless the commission of the act which caused the raising of the land in question shall have been previously approved in the manner provided in subsection (c) of this section. Title to land so raised, however, does not vest in the State if the land was raised within the bounds of a conveyance made by the State Board of Education, which included regularly flooded estuarine marshlands or lands beneath navigable waters, or if the land was raised under permits issued to private individuals pursuant to G.S. 113-229, G.S. 113A-100 through 113A-128, or both.
(c) If any owner of land adjoining any navigable water desires to fill in the area immediately in front of his land, he may apply to the Department of Administration for an easement to make such fill. The applicant shall deliver to each owner of riparian property adjoining that of the applicant, a copy of the application filed with the Department of Administration, and each such person shall have 30 days from the date of such service to file with the Department of Administration written objections to the granting of the proposed easement. If the Department of Administration finds that the purpose of the proposed fill is to reclaim lands theretofore lost to the owner by natural causes, no easement to fill shall be required. In such a case the Department shall give the applicant written permission to proceed with the project. If the purpose of the proposed fill is not to reclaim lands lost by natural causes and the Department finds that the proposed fill will not impede navigation or otherwise interfere with the use of the navigable water by the public or injure any adjoining riparian owner, it shall issue to such applicant an easement to fill and shall fix the consideration to be paid for the easement, subject to the approval of the Governor and Council of State in each instance. The granting by the State of the written permission or easement so to fill shall be deemed conclusive evidence and proof that the applicant has complied with all requisite conditions precedent to the issuance of such written permission or easement, and his right shall not thereafter be subject to challenge by reason of any alleged omission on his part. None of the provisions of this section shall relieve any riparian owner of the requirements imposed by the applicable laws and regulations of the United States. Upon completion of such filling, the Governor and Council of State may, upon request, direct the execution of a quitclaim deed therefor to the owner to whom the easement was granted, conveying the land so raised, upon such terms as are deemed proper by the Department and approved by the Governor and Council of State.
(d) If an island is, by any process of nature or by act of man, formed in any navigable water, title to such island shall vest in the State and the island shall become a part of the vacant and unappropriated lands of the State. Provided, however, that if in any process of dredging, by either the State or federal government, for the purpose of deepening any harbor or inland waterway, or clearing out or creating the same, a deposit of the excavated material is made upon the lands of any owner, and title to which at the time is not vested in either the State or federal government, or any other person, whether such excavation be deposited with or without the approval of the owner or owners of such lands, all such additions to lands shall accrue to the use and benefit of the owner or owners of the land or lands on which such deposit shall have been made, and such owner or owners shall be deemed vested in fee simple with the title to the same.
(e) The Governor and Council of State may, upon proof satisfactory to them that any land has been raised above the high watermark of any navigable water by any process of nature or by the erection of any pier, jetty or breakwater, and that this, or any other provision of this section vests title in the riparian owner thereof, whenever it may be necessary to do so in order to establish clear title to such land in the riparian owner, direct execution of a quitclaim deed thereto, conveying to such owner all of the State's right, title, and interest in such raised land.
(f) Notwithstanding the other provisions of this section, the title to land in or immediately along the Atlantic Ocean raised above the mean high water mark by publicly financed projects which involve hydraulic dredging or other deposition of spoil materials or sand vests in the State. Title to such lands raised through projects that received no public funding vests in the adjacent littoral proprietor. All such raised lands shall remain open to the free use and enjoyment of the people of the State, consistent with the public trust rights in ocean beaches, which rights are part of the common heritage of the people of this State. (1959, c. 683, s. 1; 1979, c. 414; 1985, c. 276.)