Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1965 No. 37 - Sep 8 1965
Attorney General John J. O'Connell


Irrigation districts do not have any authority to make annual payments to the Washington State Reclamation Association to assist the association in carrying out the purposes for which it was organized.

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                                                               September 8, 1965

Honorable S. E. Flanagan
State Representative
13th District
Quincy, Washington

                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 65-66 No. 37

Dear Sir:

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

            May irrigation districts make annual payments to the Washington State Reclamation Association to assist said association in carrying out the purposes for which it was organized?

            We answer your question in the negative.


            The National Reclamation Association is a private corporation organized to:

            ". . . promote the development, control, conservation, preservation and utilization of the water resources of the reclamation states; to work for the continuation of the services and the coordination of the activities of the presently existing federal agencies dealing with these water resources; to cooperate with and assist such agencies in securing prompt authorization and construction of those federal projects which meet with the approval of the state and localities affected; to assist the reclamation states and water users thereof in the economic development and operation of water improvements and the integration of their activities with existing federal agencies; to preserve the rights and interests of the reclamation states in  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] their water resources, and to promote the adoption of legislation in furtherance of these purposes."  Kauffman, The Conservation Yearbook, 58 (6th Ed.) (1962).

            In requesting this opinion you have described the National Reclamation Association as ". . . the voice of western states on national policies so important to the continued advance of profitable irrigation farming."

            The Washington State Reclamation Association is the state counterpart to the national organization.  You state that "it coordinates efforts for state programs dealing with irrigation," and "supports, and provides direct liaison with the National Reclamation Association."  Such organizations, designed as they are to influence government policy, are commonly referred to as "interest" or "pressure" groups.  Ottoson, Land Use Policy and Problems in the United States, 147 (1963).

            You have requested our opinion as to whether irrigation districts may make annual payments of district funds to the Washington State Reclamation Association to assist the association in carrying out its program.  Such payments would vary in amount depending primarily upon the size of the district, and would be made for the general support of the association.  They would be designed to insure the continued existence of the association, and the resulting perpetuation of the association's program; a program which the districts feel is of benefit to their interests.  This program is described in your letter requesting this opinion as follows:

            "Through the State and National Associations, continuing assistance is assured for authorizations of new projects such as the Manson and Kennewick extension.  Direct support is also given to resolving problems of right-of-way repayment, income tax rulings, and the determination of sugar beet quotas and sugar legislation.

            "The service provided irrigators and districts is revealed by the 1963 and 1964 resolutions of the State Association and the brief history and purposes of the Association that are enclosed.

            Irrigation districts are quasi-municipal or public corporations of the state of Washington.  See,Columbia Irr. District v. Benton County, 149 Wash. 234, 239-240, 270 Pac. 813 (1928); Roberts v. Richland Irrigation District, 169 Wash. 156, 160, 13 P.2d 437 (1932).  They are organized primarily for the purpose of furnishing water for agricultural and domestic use relating to lands within a district, usually through the  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] operation of an irrigation system.  Beasley v. Assets Conservation Co., 131 Wash. 439, 443, 230 Pac. 411 (1924);In re Wenatchee Reclamation District, 91 Wash. 60, 65, 157 Pac. 38 (1916).

            Irrigation districts' powers consist of those granted in express words, and those necessarily and fairly implied or incident thereto or indispensable to its declared objects and purposes.  Beasley v. Assets Conservation Co., supra.  Powers expressly granted to such districts are found primarily in RCW 87.03.015 and RCW 87.03.140.  We have examined these sections, and the other provisions of Title 87 RCW which set forth powers of irrigation districts, and are unable to locate any section which expressly authorizes districts to make the payments of the type in question.

            Has the legislature impliedly authorized irrigation districts to make such payments?

            Implied powers are those which are necessary to carry into effect those which are expressly granted, and which must, therefore, be presumed to have been within the legislative grant.  State v. Melton, 41 Wn.2d 298, 248 P.2d 892 (1952); State ex rel. Hunter v. Sup. Ct., 34 Wn.2d 214, 208 P.2d 866 (1949).  If there is a fair or reasonable doubt as to whether or not a particular power has been granted, it must be denied.  Griggs v. Port of Tacoma, 150 Wash. 402, 408, 273 Pac. 521 (1928); 2 McQuillin, Municipal Corporations, § 10.12, 603 (3rd Ed.) (1949).

            The funds of an irrigation district are public funds.  State ex rel. Rice v. Bell, 124 Wash. 647, 650, 215 Pac. 326 (1923); Perry v. Otay Irrigation District, 127 Cal. 565, 60 Pac. 40 (1900).  In dealing with the implied powers of an irrigation district to transfer public funds to an association such as the one in question, the case of State ex rel. Rice v. Bell, supra, is of special significance.  This case concerned the implied power of an irrigation district to pay an individual for his attempts to influence the passage of a bill pending before the United States Congress which the district felt would be of benefit to its interest.

            In holding that funds of an irrigation district could not be used for such purposes, the court concluded its opinion with the following paragraph, found on page 651, which is relevant to this discussion:

            "Obviously, to permit public moneys to be used in an effort to influence the action of representatives of the people, whether in Congress or in the legislature, is contrary to sound public policy, and in the absence of express statutory authorization, no such authority will be implied."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            As pointed out initially, the primary function of the reclamation association in question is to promote, especially before governmental bodies, the interest of "reclamationists" such as irrigation districts.  We place this type of activity in the same general category as that which constituted the subject matter of theBell case supra.  This case gives, in our opinion, a clear direction that the power of an irrigation district to make an expenditure of public funds to assist the Washington State Reclamation Association in its promotional program cannot be implied.1/

             We are further guided by the familiar doctrine of statutory construction that "expressio unius est exclusio alterius," or mention of one implies exclusion of another.  Ramsay v. Dept. Lab. & Ind., 36 Wn.2d 410, 413, 218 P.2d 765 (1950); 2 Horack, Sutherland Statutory Construction, § 4915, 412, (3rd Ed.) (1943).  Stated otherwise, when a statute authorizes something to be done by a specific means or in a particular manner, it may not be done by other means or in a different manner.  82 C.J.S., Statutes, § 333, 666 (1953).

            By chapter 193, Laws of 1947, as amended, (now codified in chapter 87.76 RCW) the legislature empowered irrigation districts to designate "a State Association of Irrigation Districts" as a coordinating agency to carry out functions prescribed by the chapter, and to reimburse said association for the cost of services rendered.  Included among the functions to be carried out by the association are those found in RCW 87.76.040, which reads:

            "To avoid duplication of effort the state association of irrigation districts may, in the discretion of its officers, affiliate and cooperate with other reclamation organizations and agenciesengaged in the furthering of reclamation of lands in the state and make financial contributions to them for such purpose."  (Emphasis supplied)

            We conclude from this legislative action when coupled with the teaching of the aforementioned doctrine and the direction of the Rice case, supra, that the legislature has not impliedly authorized irrigation districts to undertake the functions in question; i.e., the promotion of the interests of irrigation districts, in any manner other than that set forth in chapter 87.76 RCW, supra.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 5]]

            For these reasons, it is the opinion of this office that irrigation districts have not been impliedly authorized by the legislature to make the payments in question.

            We conclude this analysis by noting Article VIII, § 7 of the state constitution, which provides:

            "No county, city, town or other municipal corporation shall hereafter give any money, or property, or loan its money, or credit to or in aid of any individual,association, company or corporation, except for the necessary support of the poor and infirm, or become directly or indirectly the owner of any stock in or bonds of any association, company or corporation."  (Emphasis supplied)

            In making expenditures of public funds there can be no question that an irrigation district is bound by constitutional provisions in the same manner as are other public agencies expending public funds.

            It is a violation of Article VIII, § 7, supra, to make payments of public funds which constitute gifts, contributions or subsidies to private corporations, regardless of the purpose of such contribution and regardless of the purposes and aims of the donee.2/   This was made clear in the case ofJohns v. Wadsworth, 80 Wash. 352, 141 Pac. 892 (1914), when the court in the course of its opinion holding that a county was prohibited by Article VIII, § 7, supra, from making a payment to support the Western Washington Fair Association even though the legislature had specifically authorized the county to make such payments, wrote at page 354:

            "The section of the constitution last quoted, in most express terms, prohibits a county from giving any money, property or credit to, or in aid of, any corporation, except for the necessary support of the poor and infirm.  If the framers of the constitution had intended only to prohibit counties from giving money or loaning credit for other than corporate or public purposes, they would doubtless have said so in direct words.  That agricultural fairs serve a good purpose is not questioned, but the constitution makes no distinction between purposes, but directly and unequivocally prohibits all gifts of money, property, or credit to, or in aid of, any corporation, subject to the exception noted. . . ."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 6]]

            Because of our conclusion that an irrigation district has not been empowered by statute to make payments such as those in question, we have not found it necessary to determine whether they constitute gifts which are prohibited by Article VIII, § 7, supra.  If, however, such payments are, in fact, gifts, contributions or subsidies, then there can be no doubt that the making thereof would violate Article VIII, § 7 of the state constitution, supra.

            You are therefore advised that irrigation districts are not authorized to make payments to the Washington State Reclamation Association for the purpose of assisting said organization in carrying out the purposes for which it was organized.

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/In a prior opinion, AGO 57-58 No. 26, we expressed the view that an irrigation district was not authorized to pay a district director out of district funds for salary and travel expenses incurred while the director was lobbying for Federal legislation.

2/For the latest examination of Article VIII, § 7, supra, see State ex rel. O'Connell v. Port of Seattle, 65 W. D. 2d 777 [[65 Wn.2d 801]], 399 P.2d 623 (1965).