In its 1985 opinion in this litigation, the Court ruled that
Alabama and Mississippi, rather than the United States, own their
respective portions of the bed under Mississippi Sound, and
directed the parties to submit to the Special Master a proposed
appropriate decree. 470 U. S. 93
Mississippi and the United States submitted proposed supplemental
decrees which reflected their disagreement as to Mississippi's
coastline at two points (Alabama's coastline is no longer in
dispute). The first point of contention occurs between two islands
along the Sound's southern boundary. The second point involves
Mississippi's claimed interest in seabed south of Mississippi Sound
in the vicinity of Chandeleur Sound. In his Supplemental Report,
the Master concluded (a) that the decree proposed by Mississippi
should not be entered, and (b) that, while the United States'
solution as to the second disputed point would be preferable, it
would amount to a modification of the Court's 1985 opinion because
it would be beyond the scope of the reference to the Master, which
concerned only Mississippi Sound and its boundary. The Master
recommended that the Court enter an order directing the parties to
submit a decree defining the coastline of Alabama and Mississippi
"to the extent agreed upon"; defining Mississippi's coastline as to
the first disputed point as proposed by the United States; and
defining Mississippi's coastline as to the second point as lying
along a described line heading west from an island on Mississippi
Sound's southern boundary to the Louisiana border. Mississippi
noted exceptions relating only to the second point of contention,
and not at all to the first contention. The United States is in
1. Since the current phase of this litigation has so far dealt
only with Mississippi Sound, and has not focused on Mississippi's
interest south of that Sound, this Court will not on the present
record determine the extent of Mississippi's rights thereto without
the parties' complete agreement and the Special Master's ready
acquiescence. However, any party may advance such claims as it
might have with respect to the area south of Mississippi Sound and
in the vicinity of Chandeleur Sound by filing a timely complaint in
these proceedings. Pp. 485 U. S.
Page 485 U. S. 89
2. Because Mississippi's presently pending objections do not
relate to Mississippi Sound nor contest the validity of that
Sound's closing lines recommended by the Master, all parties are in
agreement as to that Sound and its boundary. P. 485 U. S.
Exceptions of Mississippi overruled, and Special Master's
Supplemental Report and his recommendations, to the extent they are
consistent with this opinion, adopted and confirmed.
JUSTICE BLACKMUN delivered the opinion of the Court.
In the Court's most recent opinion in this extended litigation,
see 470 U. S. 93
(1985), Mississippi Sound was determined to be a historic bay under
the Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone,
 15 U.S.T. (pt. 2) 1607, T.I.A.S. No. 5639. The waters of
that Sound, therefore, are inland waters, and Alabama and
Mississippi own their respective portions of the bed of Mississippi
Sound. The Court, as is customary in cases of this kind,
"The parties are directed promptly to submit to the Special
Master a proposed appropriate decree for this Court's
consideration; if the parties are unable to agree upon the form of
the decree, each shall submit its proposal to the Master for his
consideration and recommendation."
470 U.S. at 470 U. S.
Page 485 U. S. 90
Jurisdiction was retained to entertain such further proceedings
as might be determined to be necessary or advisable to effectuate
and supplement the decree and to determine the rights of the
The Supplemental Report dated March 16, 1987, of the Special
Master, the Honorable Walter P. Armstrong, Jr., now has been filed,
and is before us. The Master notes therein, p. 2, that no
disagreement remains among the parties with respect to the
coastline and seaward boundary of Alabama. That much has been
decided, and is clear. The Master further notes, however,
at 3, that Mississippi and the United States are in
disagreement as to the "seaward boundary" of Mississippi "at two
points." Attached to the Report, as exhibits, are forms of a
supplemental decree proposed respectively by the United States and
by Mississippi. Id.
at 31 and 38. The Special Master ends
his Report with conclusions and recommendations. Id.
26. Mississippi has noted exceptions. The United States is in
opposition to those exceptions. Alabama at this point, of course,
stands mute. Briefs have been filed and oral argument has been
The Special Master concluded (a) that the decree proposed by
Mississippi should not
be entered, ibid.,
that, while "the line proposed by the United States," would be "a
preferable solution," it "would amount to a modification of the
Court's opinion of February 26, 1985," because it "would be beyond
the scope of the reference" to the Master. Id.
at 27. He
has recommended that the Court "enter an order directing the
parties to prepare and submit to the Special Master a decree"
defining the seaward boundaries of Alabama and Mississippi "to the
extent agreed upon"; defining Mississippi's seaward boundary
between Petit Bois Island and Horn Island "as proposed in the
decree submitted by the United States"; and, despite his expressed
reservation noted above, defining the portion of Mississippi's
seaward boundary from West Ship Island westward as a described line
Page 485 U. S. 91
at its westernmost point with the already-determined Louisiana
The specific proceeding that culminated in this Court's opinion
of February 26, 1985, reported at 470 U.S. 470 U. S. 93
concerned, we thought, only Mississippi Sound and its boundary.
at 94; Tr. of Oral Arg. 3. The Special Master's
Report and his stated reservation as to the scope of the reference
to him also appear to reflect that understanding. But in its
argument to the Master and in its present exceptions, Mississippi
seeks to extend the scope of this litigation to include its
interest in seabed south of Mississippi Sound. The State's current
arguments bear little relation to earlier proceedings unless one
engrafts upon our 1985 opinion, and upon our direction therein for
a proposed decree fixing the southern boundary of Mississippi
an implication that Mississippi's rights, if any,
of that Sound's boundary are to be definitively
determined in this phase of the litigation.
To the south of the western part of Mississippi Sound lies
Chandeleur Sound, a body of water east of Louisiana's mainland and
west of the offshore Chandeleur Islands that run north and south.
Chandeleur Sound and Mississippi Sound generally lie perpendicular
to each other. They are separated by Cat Island, West Ship Island,
and East Ship Island. The latter two at one time formed a single
island, but became divided by hurricane action some years ago.
An earlier phase of this litigation led to the entry of a
supplemental decree issued June 16, 1975, see United States v.
Louisiana (Louisiana Boundary Case), 422 U. S.
, fixing the coastline (baseline) of Louisiana
pursuant to the Court's decision of March 17, 1975, see
420 U.S. 420 U. S. 529
Embodied in that decree is a line then stipulated to by the United
States and the State of Louisiana delimiting Louisiana's interest
Page 485 U. S. 92
Chandeleur Sound north of the Chandeleur Islands. The Solicitor
General advises us that the United States, in this litigation with
Mississippi, offered to recognize Mississippi's rights "in the
vicinity of Chandeleur Sound on the basis of an extension of the
line stipulated" in the litigation between the United States and
Louisiana (a line running from the location at that time of the
northernmost of the Chandeleur Islands to a point near the middle
of West Ship Island), but that Mississippi rejected that offer.
Brief for United States 2-3. Mississippi acknowledges the
rejection. Tr. of Oral Arg. 6. Thus, that easy solution to the
controversy between the United States and Mississippi as to waters
south of Mississippi Sound and in the vicinity of Chandeleur Sound
proved to be unattainable. What remains in dispute is an area of
about 150 square miles. Id.
As has been stated above, the current phase of the litigation up
to this point, so far as Mississippi is concerned, has dealt only
with Mississippi Sound. It has not focused on Mississippi's
interest south of Mississippi Sound. This being so, we sympathize
with the Special Master's unease about the scope of the reference
to him. With the case in its present somewhat confused posture, we
are unwilling on the present record to determine the extent of
Mississippi's rights south of Mississippi Sound without the
parties' complete agreement and the Special Master's ready
Because Mississippi's exceptions to the Special Master's
Supplemental Report do not relate at all to Mississippi Sound, and
do not contest the validity of that Sound's closing lines
recommended by the Master, we are left with a situation where all
parties are in agreement as to that Sound and its boundary. The
exceptions of Mississippi, as presented to us at this time,
therefore are overruled, but without prejudice to the advancement
of such claims as any party might have with respect to the area
south of Mississippi Sound and in the
Page 485 U. S. 93
vicinity of Chandeleur Sound in an appropriate separate chapter
of these proceedings. The Supplemental Report dated March 16, 1987,
of the Special Master and his recommendations, to the extent -- and
only to the extent -- they are consistent with this opinion, are
adopted and confirmed.
The parties once again are directed promptly to submit to the
Special Master a proposed appropriate decree for this Court's
consideration defining the claims of Alabama and Mississippi with
respect to Mississippi Sound. If the parties are unable to agree
upon the form of the decree, each shall submit its proposal to the
Special Master for his consideration and recommendation. Each party
shall bear its own costs; the actual expenses of the Special Master
incurred with respect to this litigation since February 26, 1985,
shall be borne half by the United States and half by
The Court retains jurisdiction to entertain such further
proceedings, enter such orders, and issue such writs as from time
to time may be determined to be necessary or advisable to
effectuate and supplement the forthcoming decree and to determine
the rights of the respective parties.
In order to facilitate the resolution of any question that might
remain as to Chandeleur Sound, leave is granted the State of
Mississippi and the United States, respectively, without further
motion, to file a complaint with this Court setting forth its claim
to any undecided portion of Chandeleur Sound. The complaint may be
filed within 60 days of the date this opinion is filed. An opposing
party shall have 45 days to respond. It is expected that all
concerned will cooperate in expediting this remaining aspect of
this phase of the litigation.
It is so ordered.
JUSTICE MARSHALL and JUSTICE KENNEDY took no part in the
consideration or decision of this litigation.
* We necessarily assume that, by his repeated use of the term
"seaward boundary," the Master is referring to Mississippi's
coastline, and not to its ultimate offshore boundary.