This case raised the issue whether a property owner has the right to the exclusive use of a manmade pond situated entirely on its own land. Ace Equipment Sales (“Ace Equipment”) and the Willington Fish and Game Club (“WFGC”) own the land under an artificially created pond, which WFGC maintains for the sole use of its members. Ace Equipment moved to enjoin the Buccinos, the owners of land bordering the southwesterly shoreline of the pond who sought to use the pond for their own recreational business, and the Buccinos’ licensees, from entering upon the pond and using it for recreational purposes, such as fishing and boating. The trial court in Connecticut allowed the Buccinos’ motion for summary judgment, ruling, inter alia, that they had riparian rights to use the pond for recreational purposes. The Appellate Court affirmed and the matter was further appealed to the Connecticut Supreme Court.
NELF filed an amicus brief supporting the property owners. NELF argued that prior decisions by the Connecticut Supreme Court strongly supported a property owner’s right to enjoy the fruits of its labor under analogous circumstances and that enforcement of the right to exclude others from benefiting from an owner’s improvements (in this case, the pond) provides the necessary economic incentive for the productive use of private property. NELF pointed out that, although this was a matter of first impression in Connecticut, the law is settled in the majority of jurisdictions that the owner of land under a manmade pond also owns the pond and has the right to exclude all others from the pond. In addition, the United States Supreme Court has held, under analogous circumstances involving government use of private property, that the right to exclude others from a private pond is a protected property interest whose deprivation requires just compensation, especially where the property owner has invested considerable resources to improve his land.
On April 5, 2005, the Connecticut Supreme Court agreed with NELF and the property owners, holding that the owners of subaqueous land have exclusive control over that portion of pond bed they own and the waters above it.