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AGO 1954 No. 371 - December 28, 1954
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

DISTRICTS ‑- IRRIGATION ‑- DISSOLUTION ‑- ASSESSMENT UNDER RCW 87.53.140, TO PAY OUTSTANDING BONDS

Landowner in former irrigation district who pays in full assessment against land under RCW 87.53.140 frees property from further assessment and discharges lien of bonds though like assessments against other land in district may remain unpaid.

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                                                               December 28, 1954

Honorable Hewitt A. Henry
Prosecuting Attorney
Thurston County
310 Courthouse
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 371

Dear Sir:

            In a previously acknowledged letter you advise that the Yelm Irrigation District has been dissolved by proceedings in the Superior Court of Thurston County under the provisions of chapter 87.53 RCW and that there are bonds of the district held in the state reclamation revolving fund, for which it is the duty of the county commissioners to levy assessments sufficient to pay a balance of principal and interest due thereon under the provisions of RCW 87.53.140.

            You ask whether or not a property owner whose property is so assessed may clear the title to his land upon payment of the amount assessed.

            You are advised:

            If the county commissioners, under the provisions of RCW 87.53.140, levy assessments upon property involved sufficient to discharge the entire balance of the principal and interest due on bonds held in the state reclamation revolving fund and provide for the conveyance of any property upon which assessments are not paid to the state instead of to the former irrigation district, each property owner, upon paying the assessment levied against his property  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] in full, will free that property from further assessment and discharge the lien of the bonds.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            The obligation of irrigation district bonds is a general obligation, and the land owner is not entitled to a segregation of his share of the obligation at any time.

            Roberts v. Richland Irrigation Dist., 169 Wash. 156, Aff'd. 289 U.S. 71;

            Lesamiz v. Whitestone Reclamation Dist., 188 Wash. 145, 148.

            The property owner may not be relieved of this obligation by contract.

            In Re Columbia Irrigation Dist., 183 Wash. 425, 436.

            The "last faithful acre" doctrine announced in the foregoing cases is clearly explained in the prevailing opinion of the Horse Heaven Irrigation Dist. case, 11 Wn. (2d) 218, 228.  An irrigation district would acquire title to land upon which assessments had not been paid for the benefit of those who bore the secondary obligation of paying additional assessments and were actually interested in the success of a continuing district.

            Kions Irrigation Dist. v. Benton County, 180 Wash. 197.

            The Yelm Irrigation District is no longer in existence and manifestly cannot acquire title to any of the real property for the benefit of property owners who bear the secondary obligation of paying additional assessments sufficient to discharge the balance of principal and interest due on the bonds, and we are of the opinion that, therefore, the "last faithful acre" doctrine does not apply.

            Had the superior court been asked to adjudicate this question in the statutory proceedings under its inherent equity jurisdiction before closing the receivership  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] (State ex rel. Pryor v. Paul, 5 Wn. (2d) 90, 94,) it could and would have adjudicated the rights of the property owner and the bond holder.

            It is now the duty of county officials to take such steps as may be necessary to levy an assessment sufficient to discharge the entire balance of principal and interest due on bonds held by the State of Washington and to see that the State of Washington succeeds to the right of the former irrigation district to acquire title to property upon which the assessments are not paid.  In this event any property owner, upon payment of the entire amount assessed to his property, will have no secondary or other obligation, even though other property owners may default in the amounts assessed to their property.

Very truly yours,

DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General


E. P. DONNELLY
Assistant Attorney General

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