Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1962 No. 131 - May 9 1962
Attorney General John J. O'Connell


(1) A flood control zone district may acquire pursuant to RCW 86.15.080 (5) title to property owned by a drainage district provided the consent of said district is first obtained.

(2) The provisions of RCW 86.15.210 do not apply to drainage districts.

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                                                                    May 9, 1962

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

                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 61-62 No. 131

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged, you requested the opinion of this office on two questions which we paraphrase as follows:

            1. Must a flood control zone district, acting under the authority of RCW 86.15.080 (5), obtain the consent of a drainage district before property owned by such district may be acquired?

            2. May a drainage district, acting under the authority of RCW 86.15.210, convey title to any of its property, improvements, or assets to a flood control zone district?

            We answer your first question in the affirmative, and your second question in the negative.


            The 1961 session of the legislature of this state in chapter 153, Laws of 1961 (which is now codified as chapter 86.15 RCW), authorized the creation of flood control zone districts.

            The general powers of such districts are set forth in RCW 86.15.080.  Subsection (5) thereof authorizes a flood control zone district to

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "Acquire necessary property, property rights, facilities and equipment necessary to the purposes of the zone by purchase, gift or condemnation:  Provided, That property of municipal corporations may not be acquired without the consent of such municipal corporation;"

            Is a drainage district a municipal corporation within the meaning of the term "municipal corporation" as that term is used in the above quoted section?

            The term "municipal corporation" is defined differently when used in relation to specific statutes and factual situations.  No general rule can be set forth to answer the question you present.  1 McQuillin, Municipal Corporations, 3rd ed. § 2.27 (1949).

            In the case ofColumbia Irr. District v. Benton County, 149 Wash. 234, 235, 270 Pac. 813 (1928), the court was concerned with whether an irrigation district was a municipal corporation within the meaning of a constitutional provision.  In the course of its opinion, the court discussed the varied meanings of the term "municipal corporation."  At page 235, it wrote:

            ". . . A municipal corporation, in its strict and proper sense, is a body politic established by law partly as an agency of the state to assist in the civil government of the country but chiefly to regulate and administer the local and internal affairs of the city, town or district which is incorporated.  Sometimes the term municipal corporation is used in a broader sense and includes public quasi corporations, the principal purpose of whose creation is an instrumentality of the state, but not for the regulation of local and special affairs of a compact community.  [Citation omitted.]"

            See, also, 1 McQuillin, Municipal Corporations, § 2.04 (1949).

            Into the latter, broader classification of "quasi municipal" or "public" municipal corporations, the Washington court has included such organizations as irrigation districts(Peters v. Union Gap Irr. District, 98 Wash. 412, 167 Pac. 1085 (1917)); water districts (Drum v. University Place Water District, 144 Wash. 585, 258 Pac. 505 (1927)); public utility districts (Public Utility District No. 1 of Pend Oreille County v. Town of Newport, 38 Wn. (2d) 221, 228 P. (2d) 766 (1951)); and diking districts (Shimada v. Diking District No. 12  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] 139 Wash. 168, 245 Pac. 916 (1926)).  See 1 McQuillin, Municipal Corporations, § 2.29.

            Did the legislature intend to use the term in its strict or broad meaning?

            We are convinced that the term "municipal corporation" as used in RCW 86.15.080 (5) was intended to be defined in its broader sense.

            Upon examination of chapter 86.15 RCW, we find the term "municipal corporations" has been used four times: twice in RCW 86.15.180, once in 86.15.080, and once in RCW 86.15.010.  The latter section is most helpful in answering your question.  RCW 86.15.010 reads, in part, as follows:

            "Definitions.  As used in this chapter the following words shall mean:

            " . . .

            "'Zones'.  Flood control zone districts which shall be municipal corporations of the state of Washington created by this chapter."

            Where the legislature refers to a public or quasi municipal corporation such as a flood control zone district, as a municipal corporation, it is clear that the legislature was using the term "municipal corporation" in its broadest sense.  In our opinion the legislature, when using the term "municipal corporations" in other sections of the same act, intended that it be construed in a like manner.

            As drainage districts are municipal corporations within the broader meaning of the term "municipal corporations," (17A Am.Jur. Drains and Sewers, § 12 (1957)), flood control zone districts may not acquire property of a drainage district under authority of RCW 86.15.080 (5), without first obtaining the consent of the drainage district.

            Your second inquiry concerns RCW 86.15.210, which reads in part as follows:

            "A diking, drainage or sewerage improvement district, flood control district, or zone may convey title to any property improvements or assets of such districts or zone to the county or a zone for flood control purposes: . . ."

            In our opinion, RCW 86.15.210 does not authorize a drainage district to convey title to property of said district to a flood control zone district.  We construe this section to apply only to diking improvement  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] districts, drainage improvement districts, sewerage improvement districts, flood control districts, and flood control zone districts.  Your attention is directed to the distinction between a drainage district organized under the authority of chapter 115, Laws of 1895 (now codified as chapter 85.06 RCW), and a drainage improvement district organized under the authority of chapter 176, Laws of 1913 (now codified as chapter 85.08 RCW).

            In passing it should be mentioned that the authority of a drainage district to consent to the acquisition of its property by a flood control zone district is implied by the wording of RCW 86.15.080 (5).  Furthermore for express authority and procedure, see RCW 39.33.010 concerning intergovernmental disposition of property.

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General