Idaho v. United States, 533 U.S. 262, 11 (2001)

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Opinion of the Court

vened to assert its interest in the submerged lands, and Idaho counterclaimed, seeking to quiet title in its own favor. Ibid. Following a 9-day trial, the District Court quieted title "in favor of the United States, as trustee, and the Coeur d'Alene Tribe of Idaho, as the beneficially interested party of the trusteeship, to the bed and banks of the Coeur d'Alene Lake and the St. Joe River lying within the current boundaries of the Coeur d'Alene Indian Reservation." 95 F. Supp. 2d, at 1117. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed. 210 F. 3d 1067 (2000). We granted certiorari, 531 U. S. 1050 (2000), and we now affirm.


Due to the public importance of navigable waterways, ownership of the land underlying such waters is "strongly identified with the sovereign power of government." Montana v. United States, 450 U. S. 544, 552 (1981). See generally Idaho v. Coeur d'Alene Tribe of Idaho, 521 U. S. 261, 284 (1997); United States v. Alaska, 521 U. S. 1, 5 (1997). In order to allow new States to enter the Union on an "equal footing" with the original States with regard to this important interest, "the United States early adopted and constantly has adhered to the policy of regarding lands under navigable waters in acquired territory . . . as held for the ultimate benefit of future States." United States v. Holt State Bank, 270 U. S. 49, 55 (1926); see also Shively v. Bowlby, 152 U. S. 1, 48-50 (1894). Therefore, in contrast to the law governing surface land held by the United States, see Scott v. Lattig, 227 U. S. 229, 244 (1913), the default rule is that title to land under navigable waters passes from the United States to a newly admitted State. Shively, supra, at 26-50. Specifically, although Congress has the power before statehood to convey land beneath navigable waters, and to reserve such land for the United States, " '[a] court

southern one-third of Coeur d'Alene Lake." Complaint in CIV94-0328- N-EJL (D. Idaho), pp. 6-7.

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