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AGO 1973 No. 23 - November 01, 1973
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

DISTRICTS ‑- PUBLIC UTILITY ‑- ANNEXATION ‑- COUNTIES ‑- BOUNDARIES

A public utility district may annex adjacent territory located in a county other than that in which the district was created where such adjacent territory is not situated within the boundaries of another public utility district.

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                                                                November 1, 1973

Honorable Charles D. Kilbury
State Representative, District 16
P.O. Box 2482
Pasco, Washington 99302

                                                                                                                 Cite as: AGO 1973 No. 23

Dear Sir:

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

            May a public utility district annex adjacent territory located in a county other than that in which the district was created where such adjacent territory is not situated within the boundaries of another public utility district?

            We answer this question in the affirmative for the reasons set forth in our analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Our present statutes governing public utility districts were originally propounded as an initiative to the legislature which was voted upon at the November, 1930, state general election and was thereupon enacted by the people.  See, chapter 1, Laws of 1931.  This law, as it has from time to time since been amended, is now codified as Title 54 RCW.

            Both as originally enacted and as currently effective, this law contemplates two types of public utility districts.  The first of these is a district which embraces the entirety of the county within and for which it was created, and the  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] second is a district which embraces only a portion of the territory of the county within and for the district was created.  See, RCW 54.08.010, codifying § 3 of the original 1931 act.

            RCW 54.32.010 (originally enacted as § 10, chapter 1, Laws of 1931) then provides for an enlargement of the territory embraced by a public utility district either by means of (1) a consolidation of two or more such districts which are contiguous to one another; or (2) the annexation by a single public utility district of territory adjacent to it which is not within the boundaries of any other such district.  Your inquiry concerns a territorial expansion by the second of these two methods and it specifically involves a case in which the adjacent territory to be thus annexed is located in another county than that in which the subject public utility district was initially created; you have further stipulated that the territory to be annexed is not located within the boundaries of any other public utility district.

            This question is predicated, apparently, upon a premise that since the law involved only provides for the initial creation of two types of public utility districts ‑ i.e., those which embrace the entirety of a county and those which occupy less than the entirety of the county ‑ it thereby implicitly negates the possibility of a public utility district which would, so to speak, "straddle" a county boundary.  We do not, however, find any evidence of such a restrictive intent in the applicable statute ‑ RCW 54.32.010,supra.

            In fact, we find in the last paragraph of this statute an express provision dealing with just such an annexation as that which is the subject of your inquiry.  After addressing itself in general terms to the procedures to be followed in connection with either consolidation or annexation, this statute concludes with the following paragraph:

            "In all cases wherein public utility districts of less area than an entire county desire to be consolidated with a public utility district including an entire county,and in all cases wherein it is desired to enlarge a public utility district including an entire county, by annexing a lesser area than an entire county, no election shall be required to be held in the district including an entire county."  (Emphasis supplied.)

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]   Referring, particularly, to the language of this statute which we have underscored, we think it patent that the only case in which it could be "desired to enlarge a public utility district including an entire county" in such a manner as to annex "a lesser area than an entire county" would be one in which the territory to be annexed is necessarily situated within the territorial boundaries of a county other than the county in which the annexing public utility district was initially created and is currently operating.  In fact, any other construction of this statute would need to be predicated upon a legislativenonsequitur.

            As indicated by our court in our court in Davis v. Wash. Toll Bridge Authority, 57 Wn.2d 428, 439, 357 P.2d 710 (1960), and other cases cited therein, in interpreting the language of a statute such as RCW 54.32.010, supra, we must construe that language so as to make it purposeful and effective, rather than futile and meaningless.  Here, our analysis of this particular statute will be seen to yield consistent and symmetrical results.  RCW 54.32.010,supra, provides for the consolidation of two public utility districts located in adjoining counties, so long as the two districts have a common boundary.  Accord,PUD No. 1 of Benton County v. Benton County, 185 Wash. 339, 341, 54 P.2d 1011 (1936).  Protanto, this statute also provides for annexation across county boundaries by a public utility district where the territory sought to be annexed is not within the boundaries of another public utility district ‑ again, so long as the annexing district and the territory sought to be annexed have a common boundary.

            We trust that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,


SLADE GORTON
Attorney General


DONALD FOSS, JR.
Assistant Attorney General

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