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AGO 1965 No. 62 - December 22, 1965
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington


A drainage district organized under chapter 85.06 RCW and an incorporated town are authorized to enter into a contract whereby the town will provide financial assistance to the district for maintenance of the district's system of ditches used in part as a carrier of surface waters originating within the territorial limits of the town provided the services to be rendered to the town are within the contemplation of RCW 35.27.370.

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                                                               December 22, 1965

Honorable Herbert E. Wieland
Prosecuting Attorney
Pacific County
431 Second
Raymond, Washington

                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 65-66 No. 62

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged you requested the advice of this office on a question which we have paraphrased as follows:

            Is a drainage district organized under chapter 85.06 RCW, authorized to contract with an incorporated town which borders said district for financial assistance in maintenance of the district's system of ditches where the system would be used in part as a carrier for surface waters originating within the town limits?

            We answer your question in the affirmative, as qualified in the analysis.


            We are informed that there exists in your county a drainage district organized pursuant to chapter 115, Laws of 1895, as amended (now codified in chapter 85.06 RCW).  This drainage district abuts on, and shares, in part, a common boundary with an incorporated town.  The direction of the natural flow of surface waters originating within the town is toward the  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] district.  Whether naturally, or after collection thereof by the town, waters from the town eventually cross the common boundary and come upon lands within the district or discharge into the district's drainage facilities.  At certain times these waters, when not controlled, endanger lands of the district as well as the district's facilities.

            You request that your question be answered with this background in mind.

            Drainage districts are public or quasi-municipal corporations of the state of Washington.  Malin v. Benthien, 114 Wash. 533, 196 Pac. 7 (1921).  See, also, 17A Am.Jur. Drains and Sewers, § 15 (1957).  The basic power of a drainage district to execute contracts is found in RCW   Supplemental powers were granted to drainage districts in chapter 170, Laws of 1935 (now codified in RCW 85.06.640 through RCW 85.06.700).

            RCW 85.06.640 provides in part:

            "Whenever in the judgment of the commissioners of any drainage district general benefits to the entire district will accrue therefrom, . . . the board of commissioners of such district is hereby given and granted authority and power to do the following things:

            "(6)Divert, dam, or carry off the waters of any stream or water endangering or damaging said district and protect against damage or flood from any waters whatsoever."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            RCW 85.06.670 then provides:

            "In carrying out the foregoing powers, or any other powers possessed by the board of  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] commissioners of such district, said board shall have authority to . . . enter into contracts with any other diking and/or drainage district, person, public ormunicipal corporation, flood control district, state, or the United States,with reference to sharing the costs orexpenses of improvements for said districtor the protection thereof, and bind its district by such contract."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            Having in mind the background information previously related, we are of the opinion that RCW 85.06.670 expressly authorizes commissioners of a drainage district to enter into a contract with an incorporated town whereby the town would furnish moneys to the district for use in maintaining the district's drainage system.

            This does not necessarily answer the further, separate question as to the corresponding authority of a city or town to enter into such an agreement.  To answer that question it would be necessary to determine what specific services the city or town would receive from the district and the particular contractual provisions designed to insure that benefit.  It is doubtful that the city or town may simply agree to contribute money for maintenance to a drainage district by reason of the town's proximity to the facilities of the drainage district.  However, a contract entered into by a town with a drainage district for the benefit of both entities may well be lawful under the statutory powers of towns.  See, RCW 35.27.370.2/

             We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/It provides in pertinent part:

            "The commissioners . . . shall . . . have the power . . . to manage and conduct the business and affairs of the district, make and execute all necessary contracts . . . and perform such other acts as hereinafter provided, . . ."

2/In a previous opinion of this office, AGO 55-57 No. 275 [[to Prosecuting Attorney, Pierce County on May 25, 1956]],

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