Lake Disputes Involving Where to Dock your Boat or Where to Put your Pier Now Must be Filed in State Court

Indiana Code 14-26-2-23(e) previously authorized the Natural Resource Commission (“NRC”) to adjudicate riparian rights disputes. A final order, whether issued by an NRC Administrative Law Judge, as the ultimate authority, or by the Administrative Orders and Protection Act (“AOPA”) Committee, acting as the delegated ultimate authority of the NRC, was subject to judicial review in accordance with IC 4-21.5-5.

However, on May 4, 2023, the General Assembly of the State of Indiana revised the statute and removed I.C. 14-26-2-23(e)(3) in its entirety, effective July 1. After July 1, the NRC may no longer consider any new riparian rights cases. Accordingly, riparian rights disputes will be handled at the state court level. The revised code does not indicate whether any petition filed before July 1 must remain in the NRC’s jurisdiction after July 1. However, once the NRC begins to exercise jurisdiction over a case, it is likely that the case will stay with the assigned Administrative Law Judge.

The change in jurisdiction affects not only where a claim must be filed but also the time limit to file a claim. Previously, “[a] Petition alleging a riparian rights dispute initiated under IC 14-26-2-23 and 312 IAC 11-3-2 [could] be filed at any time a dispute exists.” Natural Resources Commission, A Guide to Administrative Review Before the Natural Resources Commission (2021). As there is currently no relevant statute establishing a statute of limitations for riparian rights disputes, the statute of limitations is likely the default of ten years. Ind. Code § 34-11-1-2.Thus, lakers should be aware that it is now possible to be time-barred from filing a claim for such a dispute. 

For questions regarding this article or a question regarding a dispute, please contact a member of our Litigation team

About the Author: Pat Murphy is an experience trial lawyer.  He has handled matters involving real estate disputes, adverse possession, easements, boundary disputes, property law, and construction. He also represents businesses in cases involving trade secrets, unfair competition, product liability and bet-the-company litigation. He can be reached at 260.423.8971 or at

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