From the beginning, the 23 states along the U.S. seaboard took it for granted that they owned the sea bottom that runs out from their shores to the three-mile limit of U.S. coastal waters. Nobody seriously challenged that view until California, Texas and Louisiana began to get fat incomes from lucrative offshore oil leases. Then, belatedly in 1937, the Federal Government staked out its claim to the marginal lands* around the U.S. on the grounds of national interest. When in 1946 Congress passed a bill giving clear title to the states, Harry Truman vetoed it: That is a job...

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