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AGO 1957 No. 67 - May 21, 1957
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington

IRRIGATION DISTRICT ‑- CHANGE OF NAME

An irrigation district may change its name by removing "irrigation district" from the name only if the new name includes such words as "reclamation district" or words of similar import which will not confuse members of the public.

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                                                                   May 21, 1957

Honorable Earl Coe
Director
Department of Conservation
General Administration Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGO 57-58 No. 67


Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged, you have requested the opinion of this office on a question which we paraphrase as follows:

            May an irrigation district change its name so that the words "irrigation district" do not appear therein, while still continuing to maintain its organization under the irrigation district statutes?

            Our answer is that such a district may remove the words "irrigation district" from its name only if its new name includes words which will not confuse the public as to the true character of the district.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            In the letter forwarded with your request, it is stated that the directors of Vera Irrigation District No. 15 would prefer the district to have a name which did not include the words "irrigation district" for the reason that they have been advised that the district would have a more favorable market for the sale of its bonds if these words were omitted.  It is further  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] stated that the district nevertheless desires to maintain its form of organization under the irrigation district statutes.

            The only statute relating to the change in the name of a district is RCW 87.08.140 which provides as follows:

            "A district may change its name by filing with the board of county commissioners of the county in which was filed the petition to organize the district, a certified copy of a resolution of its board of directors adopted by the unanimous vote of all the members at a regular meeting, declaring such change of name.  Thereafter all proceedings shall be had under the new name, but all obligations entered into under its former name shall remain unaffected by the change."

            This section sets forth no limitations in respect to the changing of the name of an irrigation district.  An examination of this statute alone could lead to the conclusion that a district may change its entire name without restriction.

            However, to determine the legislative intent in respect to the extent of the power of an irrigation district to change its name under the above statute, an examination must be made of the other laws pertaining to irrigation districts as set forth in Title 87 RCW.  In construing a statute, all acts relating to the same subject matter should be read together.  State v. Houck, 32 Wn. (2d) 681.  A review of the provisions of Title 87 RCW discloses that most of the statutes therein contain the words "district" or "irrigation district."

            Legislative intent that the name of an irrigation district should include the words "irrigation district" is particularly demonstrated by reference to specific sections of Title 87 RCW.  For example, in RCW 87.01.050, it is provided that in an election to determine whether to form a district the ballots shall contain the words:

            "Irrigation District‑-Yes

            "Irrigation District‑-No"

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            Likewise in RCW 87.08.210 in respect to notices of hearings to be issued following the filing of a petition by a district, it is stated that the notice shall refer to the name of the "irrigation district."

            Another example of legislative intent that the name of a district shall include the words "irrigation district" is found in RCW 87.53.080.  This section, in referring to dissolution proceedings, provides that the title of the dissolution proceedings shall be:

            "In the Matter of the Dissolution of        Irrigation District."

            From the above statutes pertaining to irrigation districts, and upon consideration of all the statutes relating thereto, it appears that the legislature contemplated that the name of an irrigation district should normally include the words "irrigation district."  Considerable confusion in the minds of the public and persons having business with the district could arise if an irrigation district in fact and in law did not operate under a name clearly evidencing the legal nature of the organization.

            Notwithstanding the foregoing observations concerning legislative intent, we must recognize and give consideration to the 1916 decision of our supreme court inRose v. Kimball, 91 Wash. 60.  In that case, the court held that an irrigation district could properly be named the "Wenatchee Reclamation District."

            It is true that at the time of this case, RCW 87.08.140 and 87.53.080, discussedsupra, were not in existence.  It is also true that the case did not involve the issue of a change of name, but rather the validity of the original name as selected by the county commissioners.  In the former instance, there might be a greater chance for confusion to result on the part of the public and persons having an interest in proceedings and activities of a particular district.

            Nevertheless, the court pointed out that the statute authorizing the county commissioners to select a name for a proposed district, placed no restrictions of any kind as to the character of the name chosen.  It observed further that the name "Wenatchee Reclamation District" was not

            "* * * so far confusing as to warrant the holding that an irrigation district could not be properly organized with such a name."

            Accordingly, we conclude that in view of the statutes as interpreted in  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] the light ofRose v. Kimball, supra, the name of the Vera Irrigation District No. 15 may be changed provided its new name includes such words as "reclamation district," or words of similar import, which will not confuse members of the public having an interest in the district.

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General


ROBERT L. SIMPSON
Assistant Attorney General

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