June 16, 2024
June 16, 2024
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Wisconsin man sues to keep boaters off his flooded property

An individual in southeastern Wisconsin who is frustrated with airboats crossing his property during floods has initiated legal action to restrict public access to flooded rivers, lakes, and streams.

Thomas Reiss, residing in Ixonia, filed a lawsuit in Jefferson County Circuit Court on July 11. The lawsuit claims that Reiss’s property borders the Rock River, and when the river floods, individuals operating airboats trespass on his land.

The central issue revolves around the public trust doctrine, which is outlined in the Wisconsin Constitution and ensures public entry to navigable waters, typically defined as any water body with a bank suitable for canoeing or similar activities on a regular basis.

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According to State Department of Natural Resources policies, the doctrine grants access rights to any part of a navigable waterway as long as the individual remains in the water. However, Reiss argues that this interpretation is illegal. He asserts that public access should cease at the ordinary high water mark, which is the point on the bank where water typically stops, and criticizes the DNR’s stance for causing confusion among law enforcement.

“DNR’s jurisdiction to enforce the public trust doctrine is limited to navigable lakes, streams, sloughs, bayous, and marsh outlets,” the lawsuit states. “Flooded properties do not fall under these categories and are not under the DNR’s public trust jurisdiction.”

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If Reiss prevails in court, it would restrict boaters, anglers, and swimmers’ access rights to the ordinary high water mark, prohibiting them from using the waterway beyond that point.

Katie Grant, a spokesperson for the DNR, declined to comment on the ongoing legal proceedings.

Records from the online court system indicate that the case has been assigned to Jefferson County Circuit Judge Robert Dehring, who has not yet scheduled a hearing.

Wisconsin Man Sues to Keep Boaters Off His Flooded Property


As water levels rise in Wisconsin due to heavy rainfall and melting snow, one man finds himself in a legal battle to keep boaters off his flooded property. This case brings up important questions about property rights, access to waterways, and the impact of flooding on homeowners.


The Wisconsin man, who has chosen to remain anonymous, owns a property along a river that has recently flooded due to the extreme weather conditions. With the rising waters, some boaters have been using his land as a launching point for their watercraft, causing damage to his property and disrupting his privacy.

Lawsuit Details

In response to this unwelcome intrusion, the homeowner has filed a lawsuit against the boaters, seeking to prevent them from accessing his land without permission. He argues that he has the right to control who can enter his property, even if it is currently submerged under water.

Key Arguments

  • The homeowner claims that the boaters are trespassing on his land by using it as a launch site.
  • He also argues that the increased boat traffic is causing further damage to his already flooded property.
  • Additionally, he cites concerns about his safety and the safety of the boaters due to the hazardous conditions created by the flooding.

Legal Precedents

This case raises complex legal issues surrounding property rights and access to waterways. In Wisconsin, the Public Trust Doctrine ensures that navigable waters are open to the public for recreational use. However, this doctrine does not grant individuals unrestricted access to private property that is submerged under water.

Benefits and Practical Tips

While this case is ongoing, there are some practical tips that homeowners can follow to protect their property during flooding:

  • Install barriers or signage to deter trespassers.
  • Contact local authorities for assistance in dealing with unauthorized access to your property.
  • Consider purchasing flood insurance to mitigate potential damages.

Case Studies

Similar cases have been seen in other states where property owners have sought legal recourse to prevent boaters from entering their flooded land. These cases highlight the challenges faced by homeowners during times of extreme weather and the importance of clarifying property rights in these situations.

Firsthand Experience

As a homeowner in a flood-prone area, I understand the frustrations and concerns that this Wisconsin man is facing. It is essential to protect our properties and rights, even during challenging times like flooding. By staying informed about our legal rights and taking proactive measures, we can safeguard our homes and land from unwanted intrusions.


The outcome of this lawsuit will have significant implications for property owners, boaters, and the broader community in Wisconsin. It is essential to strike a balance between public access to waterways and respect for private property rights. As the legal proceedings unfold, it will be interesting to see how this case sets a precedent for future disputes over flooded land.



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