It has long been recognized that the boundaries of coastal states encompass certain adjoining maritime areas. The settled existence of those boundaries, however, stands in marked contrast to the confusion which has surrounded their location. The geographic extent of the waters to which state jurisdiction extends has remained largely undetermined.

The recent development of refined methods for extracting minerals from offshore areas has translated questions of state jurisdiction into issues of substantial economic significance. In this regard, an increasing number of disputes have arisen between the states and the federal government, primarily over rights to offshore oil deposits. The litigation which has resulted from these disputes, while limited to particular aspects of boundary delineation, has inferentially established a framework of general application. It is the purpose of this article, through analysis of this series of judicial decisions and their historical background, to translate that inferential framework into concrete principles of definition.