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AGLO 1978 No. 36 - November 09, 1978
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

DISTRICTS ‑- SEWER ‑- WATER ‑- EMINENT DOMAIN ‑- CONDEMNATION OF WATER SUPPLY LINES BY SEWER DISTRICT

Where a sewer district, acting through its governing board of commissioners, has elected to construct, maintain ad operate a water supply system in accordance with RCW 56.20.015 as amended by § 9, chapter 300, Laws of 1977, such sewer district is then authorized by RCW 56.08.010 to acquire by condemnation ". . . water supply lines located within [the] district and owned by a private water company."

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                                                                November 9, 1978

Honorable King Lysen
State Representative, 31st Dist.
P.O. Box 66173
Seattle, Washington 98166                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1978 No. 36

Dear Sir:

            By recent letter you have requested our opinion on the following question:

            "Does a sewer district have authority to acquire water supply lines located within its district and owned by a private water company, by condemnation for the purpose of operating a water supply system?"

            We answer your question in the affirmative subject to the single qualification set forth in our analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            RCW 56.08.010 authorizes a sewer district to ". . . acquire by . . . condemnation . . . all lands, property rights, and water rights, both within and without the district, necessary for its purposes."  (Emphasis supplied)  Prior to the enactment of chapter 300, Laws of 1977, 1st Ex. Sess., however, those purposes did  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] not include the maintenance or operation of a water supply system.  Then, by § 9 of that 1977 act the legislature amended the pre‑existing provisions of RCW 56.20.015 to read as follows:

            ". . .

            "In addition to all of the powers and authorities set forth in Title 56 RCW, any sewer district shall have all of the powers of cities as set forth in ((chapter 35.43 RCW and)) chapter 35.44 RCW.  Sewer districts may also exercise all of the powers permitted to a water district under Title 57 RCW relating to the constructing, maintaining, and operating of water supply systems.

            ". . ."

            This amendment, of course, is permissive rather than mandatory.  Until and unless a given sewer district, acting through its board of commissioners, elects to utilize the amendment the operation of a water supply system still will not constitute one of the "purposes" of the district so as to trigger the possibility of condemnation proceedings under RCW 56.08.010,supra.

            Once the commissioners of the district have formally decided to operate or maintain a water system, however, it would appear to us that RCW 56.08.010 would itself afford sufficient authority1/ for the district (in the words of your question) to

            ". . . acquire water supply lines located within its district and owned by a private water company, by condemnation, for the purpose of operating a water supply system. . . ."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            Therefore, subject to the foregoing qualification, we answer your question in the affirmative.  It is hoped that the foregoing will be of some assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

SLADE GORTON
Attorney General


JAMES K. PHARRIS
Assistant Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/We therefore see no necessity for resort to RCW 57.08.010 regarding condemnation by water districts.

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