Navigation Top
AGO Logo Graphic
AGO Header Image
File a Complaint
Contact the AGO
AGO 1950 No. 206 - January 25, 1950
AGO Opinion Header Image
Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

COLUMBIA RIVER BOUNDARY LINE BETWEEN OREGON AND WASHINGTON

The construction of "The Dalles Celilo Locks" in the Columbia River did not change the boundary lines between the states of Washington and Oregon.

                                                                  - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                                 January 25, 1950

Honorable Alvin Anderson
Director of Fisheries
1308 Smith Tower
Seattle 4, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 49-51 No. 206

Attention:  Mr. E. M. Benn, Chief Inspector

Dear Sir:

            We have your letter of December 27 in which you ask whether or not the construction of a ship channel known as "The Dalles Celilo Locks" in the Columbia River changed the boundary line between the states of Washington and Oregon.

            You are advised that the construction of this ship channel did not change the boundary lines between the states of Washington and Oregon.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Despite the joint fisheries compact between the states of Oregon and Washington (section 116, chapter 31, Laws of Washington 1915 [5770 Rem. Rev. Stat.]), the courts have held that either state may make its fishing laws more restrictive without the consent of the other, although neither state may relax its fishing laws without the consent of the other.

            Olin v. Ketzmiller, 259 U.S. 260.

           McGowan v. Van Winkle, 21 F. (2d) 76, aff'd. 277 U.S. 574.

           Gile v. Huse, 183 Wash. 560, 49 P. (2d) 25.

           Henderson v. Delaware Joint Toll Bridge Com'n., 362 Pa. 475, 66 A. (2d) 850.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            See also our letter of October 4, 1946, to the Honorable Milo Mobre, Director of Fisheries; and letters of April 1, 1927, July 11, 1927, and August 29, 1930, to the Honorable Charles R. Pollock, Supervisor of Fisheries.

            You are right also in advising that the boundary line between the states of Oregon and Washington is difficult of determination.  The Supreme Court of the United States, in determining this line, confined itself to the narrow facts before it (Washington v. Oregon, 211 U.S. 127), and took occasion to recommend, as we again do, the determination thereof by joint agreement.  (Washington v. Oregon, 215 U.S. 205.)

            The precise boundary line between the states of Oregon and Washington in the vicinity of "The Dalles Celilo Locks", under the decisions just cited, is the varying center of the main channel of the Columbia River.  (Section 1, Article 24, Washington Constitution.)

            The Supreme Court of the United States said that the widest channel does not mean the broadest expanse of water, but "simply the widest expanse of water which can reasonably be called a channel."  (Washington v. Oregon, 214 U.S. 205, at p. 216.)

            The necessity still remains of determining the precise center of the main channel, regardless of the width of the river or the stage of the water therein.

            The construction of an artificial channel does not change the precise boundary line determined as a matter of fact from the foregoing definition.  The boundary line would remain the varying center of the original channel, although a new channel might become the present main channel.

            Missouri v. Nebraska, 196 U.S. 23.

           Washington v. Oregon, 214 U.S. 205.

            Our letter of August 19, 1941, to Hon. B. T. McCauley, Director of Game.

            Our letter of March 31, 1944, to Mr. T. M. McIntyre, Supervisor of the Tax Commission.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

E. P. DONNELLY
Assistant Attorney General

Content Bottom Graphic
AGO Logo