Washington State

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Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1953 No. 28 -
Attorney General Don Eastvold


Commissioners of a port district, in the exercise of their discretionary powers, may amend the district's comprehensive plan to include construction of a breakwater on waters and property owned by the United States and the State of Washington.  The port district may use its funds for such project.

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                                                                    May 1, 1953 

Honorable Cliff Yelle
State Auditor
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 28

 Attention:  !ttMr. A. E. Hankins,Chief Examiner

 Dear Sir:

             In your letter of April 13, 1953, you submit a copy of a letter from the attorney for the Port District of Pasco, dated April 8, 1953, setting forth in some detail the facts with regard to the proposed construction of a breakwater within the boundaries of the Port of Pasco on property owned by the United States and the State of Washington.

             You request our opinion as follows:

             "(1) May a port district properly include such a project in its comprehensive scheme and plan and expend public funds thereon?

             "(2) If your answer to question No. 1 is in the affirmative, could such a project be paid solely from port district funds?

             "(3) If your answer to Question # 1 is yes and Question # 2 is no, could the district make such expenditures from public funds after securing an agreement from a private agency to repay the costs by way of rental or contract extending over a three or four year period?"

              [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            It is our conclusion that all three of your questions should be answered in the affirmative.


             It is indicated that the proposed breakwater, to cost between two thousand and three thousand dollars, will protect the approach to a small, separate harbor area which is used primarily by a local boat club and its members.  The area involved is located about one‑half mile from the Port of Pasco Pier, but the project will, to some extent, protect navigation generally in the event of storms.  The project is not included in the comprehensive plan of harbor improvements heretofore adopted by the harbor commissioners.  The project would be located on land owned by the United States or by the United States and the State of Washington.

             A breakwater is within the meaning of "jetties" and "sea walls" which port districts are authorized to construct and maintain pursuant to the provisions of RCW 53.08.020.  The port commissioners, after notice and a public hearing, may change the district's comprehensive plan to include the project.  RCW 53.20.020.  The port district is authorized to improve navigable and nonnavigable waters of the United States and the State of Washington which are within the port district.  RCW 53.08.060.  For the purposes of this opinion we are assuming that clearance and authority for the project will be obtained from the proper governmental agencies.

             Our supreme court has recognized that the powers of port districts should be liberally construed.  Griggs v. Port of Tacoma, 150 Wash. 402.

             We are of the opinion that the commissioners of Pasco Port District, in the exercise of their discretionary power, and after a public hearing, are authorized to determine that the proposed breakwater will serve the purposes and objectives of the port district and to amend the district's comprehensive plan accordingly.  Thereafter, the district would be authorized to expend district funds for the construction of the project.  The port district would likewise have authority to secure reimbursement from private sources under some form of rental agreement.

 Very truly yours,
Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General