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AGO 1959 No. 60 - August 21, 1959
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington

CITIES AND TOWNS - EFFECT OF ANNEXATION OF LAND ON BANK OF NAVIGABLE RIVER OVER JURISDICTION TO CENTER OF RIVER FOR TAX PURPOSES.

The annexation of land to the bank of a navigable river by a city vests the city with jurisdiction for tax purposes to the center of a navigable river under RCW 35.21.160.

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                                                                 August 21, 1959

Honorable Herbert H. Davis
Prosecuting Attorney
Benton County
Prosser, Washington                                                                                             Cite as:  AGO 59-60 No. 60

Dear Sir:

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

            Does the annexation of land by a city, under the provisions of RCW 35.13.185, only up to the bank of a navigable river give the city jurisdiction to the center of the river, for tax purposes, in view of RCW 35.21.160 which provides, in part, that a city shall have jurisdiction up to the center of a navigable river which is adjacent to its boundaries?

            We answer this question in the affirmative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Section 1, chapter 111, Laws of 1909, (cf. RCW 35.21.160) provides:

            "That the powers and jurisdiction of all incorporated cities of the State of Washington having their boundaries or any part of their boundaries adjacent to or fronting on any bay or bays, lake or lakes, sound or sounds, river or rivers, or other navigable waters, be and the same are hereby extended into and over said waters and  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] over any tide lands intervening between any such boundary and any such waters to the middle of such bays, sounds, lakes, rivers or other waters, in every manner and for every purpose that such powers and jurisdiction could be exercised when such cities' limits include such waters or any part of such waters:  Provided, That in towns of the fourth class the territory added by this act shall be over and above the one square mile now established by law as the maximum territory within the limits of such town."

            We believe the case ofPacific American Fisheries v. Whatcom County, 69 Wash. 291, 293, 124 Pac. 905, is determinative of the question involved.  There, the court held that property situated between the boundaries of the city of Bellingham and the middle of Bellingham Bay was taxable by the city in view of the above quoted statute.  The court stated:

            "A reading of § 1 of the act is convincing that the legislature intended to extend the boundaries of such cities to the middle of such bays, for it says, 'The powers and jurisdiction of' such cities 'be and the same are hereby extended . . . to the middle of such bays . . . in every manner and for every purpose that such powers and jurisdiction could be exercised when such cities' limits include such waters.'  The mere fact that the powers and jurisdiction, in every manner and for every purpose, are extended, necessarily extended the boundaries.  It seems plain that this was the purpose and object of the act.  Appellant very plausibly argues that the police power only was extended beyond the boundaries of the city, and that the boundaries were not affected.  But this seems too narrow a view to take of the act, when it provides that the powers and jurisdiction are extendedin every manner and for every purpose.  The act plainly was intended to, and does, extend the boundaries to the middle of such bays.

            " . . .

            ". . . We are satisfied that the act is valid, and that the appellant's property was within the boundaries and the jurisdiction of the city for taxation and all other municipal purposes."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            It was clearly the intention of the legislature, in enacting RCW 35.21.160,supra, to provide that every city whose boundaries extend to the edge of navigable waters should have jurisdiction over such waters to the middle thereof.  In our opinion, therefore, the act should be considered prospective in operation and to include cities coming within its provisions after its enactment, as well as those cities so situated prior to its enactment.

            Therefore, it is not necessary for the city to take any further action to annex formally to the center of the river.  The city by virtue of the statute (RCW 35.21.160) acquires jurisdiction for tax purposes to the center of the river by annexing property adjacent to the river.

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

RICHARD M. MONTECUCCO
Assistant Attorney General

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