113-206. Chart of grants, leases and fishery rights; overlapping leases and rights; contest or condemnation of claims; damages for taking of property.

(a) The Secretary must commence to prepare as expeditiously as possible charts of the waters of North Carolina containing the locations of all oyster and clam leaseholds made by the Department under the provisions of this Article and of all existing leaseholds as they are renewed under the provisions of this Article, the locations of all claims of grant of title to portions of the bed under navigable waters registered with him, and the locations of all areas in navigable waters to which a right of private fishery is claimed and registered with him. Charting or registering any claim by the Secretary in no way implies recognition by the State of the validity of the claim.

(a1) If a claim is based on an oyster or other shellfish grantor a perpetual franchise for shellfish cultivation, the Secretary may, to resolve the claim, grant a shellfish lease to the claimant for part or all of the area claimed. If a claim of exclusive shellfishing rights was registered based upon a conveyance by the Literary Fund, the North Carolina Literary Board or the State Board of Education, and the claimant shows that the area had been cultivated by the claimant or his predecessor in title for the seven-year period prior to registration of the claim, the Secretary may, to resolve the claim, grant a shellfish lease to the claimant for all or part of the area claimed, not to exceed ten acres. A shellfish lease granted under this subsection is subject to the restrictions imposed on shellfish leases in G.S. 113-202, except the prohibition against leasing an area that contains a natural shellfish bed in G.S. 113-202(a)(2). This restriction is waived because, due to the cultivation efforts of the claimant, the area is likely to contain a natural shellfish bed.

(b) In the event of any overlapping of areas leased by the Department, the Secretary shall recommend modification of the areas leased as he deems equitable to all parties. Appeal from the recommendation of the Secretary lies for either party in the same manner as for a lease applicant as to which there is a recommendation of denial or modification of lease. If there is no appeal, or upon settlement of the issue upon appeal, the modified leases must be approved by the Marine Fisheries Commission and reissued by the Secretary in the same manner as initial or renewal leases. Leaseholders must furnish the Secretary surveys of the modified leasehold areas, meeting the requisite criteria for surveys established by the Secretary.

(c) In the event of any overlapping of areas leased by the Department and of areas in which title or conflicting private right of fishery is claimed and registered under the provisions of this Article, the Secretary must give preference to the leaseholder engaged in the production of oysters or clams in commercial quantities who received the lease with no notice of the existence of any claimed grant or right of fishery. To this end, the Secretary shall cause a modification of the claim registered with him and its accompanying survey to exclude the leasehold area. Such modification effected by the Secretary has the effect of voiding the grant of title or right of fishing to the extent indicated.

(d) In the interest of conservation of the marine and estuarine resources of North Carolina, the Department may institute an action in the superior court to contest the claim of title or claimed right of fishery in any navigable waters of North Carolina registered with the Secretary. In such proceeding, the burden of showing title or right of fishery, by the preponderance of the evidence, shall be upon the claiming title or right holder. In the event the claiming title or right holder prevails, the trier of fact shall fix the monetary worth of the claim. The Department may elect to condemn the claim upon payment of the established owners or right holders their pro rata shares of the amount so fixed. The Department may make such payments from such funds as may be available to it. An appeal lies to the appellate division by either party both as to the validity of the claim and as to the fairness of the amount fixed. The Department in such actions may be represented by the Attorney General. In determining the availability of funds to the Department to underwrite the costs of litigation or make condemnation payments, the use which the Department proposes to make of the area in question may be considered; such payments are to be deemed necessary expenses in the course of operations attending such use or of developing or attempting to develop the area in the proposed manner.

(e) A person who claims that the application of G.S. 113-205 or this section has deprived him of his private property rights in land under navigable waters or his right of fishery in navigable waters without just compensation may file a complaint in the superior court of the county in which the property is located to contest the application of G.S. 113-205 or this section. If the plaintiff prevails, the trier of fact shall fix the monetary worth of the claim, and the Department may condemn the claim upon payment of this amount to him if the Secretary considers condemnation appropriate and necessary to conserve the marine and estuarine resources of the State. The Department may pay for a condemned claim from available funds. An action under this subsection is considered a condemnation action and is therefore subject to G.S. 7A-248.

The limitation period for an action brought under this subsection is three years. This period is tolled during the disability of the plaintiff. No action, however, may be instituted under this subsection after December 31, 2006.

(f) In evaluating claims registered pursuant to G.S. 113-205, the Secretary shall favor public ownership of submerged lands and public trust rights. The Secretary's action does not alter or affect in any way the rights of a claimant or the State. (1965, c. 957, s. 2; 1969, c. 44, s. 69; c. 541, s. 11; 1973, c. 1262, s. 28; 1977, c. 771, s. 4; 1985, c. 279; c. 762; 1989, c. 423, s. 3; c. 727, s. 102; 1989 (Reg. Sess., 1990), c. 869, ss. 1, 2; 1993 (Reg. Sess., 1994), c. 717, ss. 1-3; 1998-179, s. 1; 2006-79, s. 11.)