Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1952 No. 282 -
Attorney General Smith Troy


Boards of soil conservation district supervisors may contract with boards of county commissioners for the use of heavy soil moving equipment for control of soil erosion.  (We suggest liability insurance be required for the protection of the county and its officers).

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                                                                    April 7, 1952 

Mr. Robert J. Martin, Secretary
Ritzville Soil Conservation District
Ritzville, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 282

 Dear Sir:

             We are in receipt of your letter which reached this office on March 31st requesting an opinion, as follows:

             "The Chairman of the Ritzville Conservation District requested that I write you for a legal ruling on the following question:

             "Can the Board of County Commissioners legally rent heavy soil moving equipment, owned by the county, to the Board of Soil Conservation District Supervisors for use on individual farms for control of soil erosion?"

             It is our conclusion that boards of soil conservation district supervisors may contract with boards of county commissioners for the use of heavy soil moving equipment for control of soil erosion.  (We suggest liability insurance be required for the protection of the county and its officers).

              [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]


             Your letter has posed a most difficult question due to the fact that former rulings of our office have been almost uniformly against the proposition that county commissioners have authority to lease county personal property to private persons or public bodies.  We do not expressly overrule herein any of our opinions in that regard, and the authority of this opinion should not be used to extend leasing authority of the county commissioners beyond the scope of this opinion or be considered authority in any other question which might arise regarding the leasing of county personal property by boards of county commissioners.

             There is no express statutory provision which would allow boards of county commissioners to lease equipment to either private or public bodies.  If a soil conservation district may lease heavy equipment from the county commissioners, such action must be based upon the provisions of the soil conservation act itself.  The soil conservation act is cited as chapter 187 of the Laws of 1939.  It is a very long and comprehensive act.  A few of its provisions will be quoted herein.  It is so lengthy that except where noted the provisions are paraphrased.

             Section 2 of said act (Rem. Rev. Stat. Supp. § 10726-2) contains a complete and comprehensive legislative declaration of necessity and policy.  In this section the vital necessity for soil conservation is stressed, and soil conservation is declared to be provided by the legislature to protect and promote the public health, safety and general welfare.

             Section 3 (Rem. Rev. Stat. Supp. § 10726-3) is a comprehensive definition section and therein a soil conservation district is defined to be a governmental subdivision of this state and a public body corporate and politic.  The words "agency of this state" are to include the government of the state or any subdivision, agency or instrumentality.

             Section 8 (Rem. Rev. Stat. Supp. § 10726-8) contains a most comprehensive listing of the powers and duties of a soil conservation district.  Because of its importance, subdivision (4) of said section is quoted in full as follows:

             "(4) To cooperate, or enter into agreements with, and within the limits of appropriations duly made available to it by law, to furnish financial or other aid to,any agency, governmental or otherwise, or any owner of lands within the district, in the  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] carrying on of erosion-control and prevention operations within the district, subject to such conditions as the supervisors may deem necessary to advance the purposes of this act;" (Emphasis supplied)

             With the exception of section 17, other sections of the soil conservation act will not be quoted, but it is our observation that they are comprehensive and intended to facilitate the carrying out of the broad legislative policy mentioned above.

             The last section (Rem. Rev. Stat. Supp. § 10726-17) contains the following provision:

             "In so far as any of the provisions of this act are inconsistent with the provisions of any other law, the provisions of this act shall be controlling:  * * *."

             While the question is not free from doubt, we believe that the soil conservation act is so broad in its terms that supervisors of soil conservation districts may make agreements with boards of county commissioners for the leasing of heavy county equipment.  We arrive at this result by a consideration of the power to enter into agreements provided in section 8, supra, the policy declared by the legislature, and the fact that the legislature, in section 17, stated the intention that the act should be controlling.

             If any contracts are made under authority of this opinion, we suggest that liability insurance be required for the protection of the members of boards of county commissioners and the county while such heavy equipment is in use by soil conservation districts.  We also stress the fact that such leases must be to soil conservation districts and that in no manner may they be made to private individuals for any purpose.

 Very truly yours,
Attorney General 

Assistant Attorney General