SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
OCTOBER TERM, 1996
on exceptions to report of special master
No. 84, Orig. Argued February 24, 1997—Decided June 19, 1997
This suit involves a dispute between the United States and Alaska over the ownership of submerged lands along the State's Arctic Coast. The Alaska Statehood Act expressly provides that the federal Submerged Lands Act applies to Alaska. The latter Act entitles Alaska to submerged lands beneath tidal and inland navigable waters and submerged lands extending three miles seaward of the State's coastline. The United States claims a right to offer lands in the Beaufort Sea for mineral leasing, and Alaska seeks to quiet its title to coastal submerged lands within two federal reservations, the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (Reserve) and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, formerly known as the Arctic National Wildlife Range (Range). Both parties have filed exceptions to the Special Master's Report.
Held: 1. Alaska's exception to the recommended ruling that the State's submerged lands in the vicinity of barrier islands along its Arctic Coast should be measured as a 3-mile belt from a coastline following the normal baseline under the Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone (Convention) is overruled. The coastline from which a State measures its Submerged Lands Act grant corresponds to the baseline from which the United States measures its territorial sea under the Convention. According to the Convention's normal baseline approach, each island has its own belt of territorial sea, measured outward from a baseline corresponding to the low-water line along the island's coast. Alaska objects to the application of this approach to the Stefans-
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