This article attempts to explain land ownership on active waterfront. There are three terms that are commonly used that need to be understood.
1. Erosion – This is the slow incremental loss of land. If land slowly erodes a new natural boundary is created and the ‘lost’ land reverts to the crown.
2. Accretion – This is the slow incremental addition of land. Land created between the original natural boundary and the present natural boundary is owned by the upland property. An application to the BC Surveyor General is required to reflect ownership of land created by accretion on the registered legal plan.
3. Avulsion – This is land that is lost to erosion in an instantaneous event like the 2012 freshet. Ownership of this land is maintained by the upland property and can be recovered.
These three principles are not well understood by officials at Front Counter BC and people may get incorrect advice when applying for permits. A fourth equally important principle is that waterfront property owners still have a Common Law Riparian Right to protect their property from erosion.
The 2012 freshet saw a lot of avulsion on Shuswap lake that resulted in property loss. Property owners have a right to replace land that was lost along with damaged retaining walls in their original location. To do this, you will need the services of a professional biologist (to ensure works are done according to best management practices), a BC Land Surveyor (to make the case for avulsion), and a lawyer (to remind them of how the law works).