Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1953 No. 120 - Aug 21 1953
Attorney General Don Eastvold


Port Commissioners cannot construct improvements not set out in regularly adopted Comprehensive Improvement Plan.  Such construction must be authorized by official change in or addition to plan after statutory notice and hearing.

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                                                                 August 21, 1953

Honorable Cliff Yelle
State Auditor
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 120

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

Dear Sir:

            We have your letter asking for the opinion of this office concerning the authority of a port district to build approximately five miles of pipeline within the boundaries of the port district.  You state that a corporation has built a pipeline from Salt Lake City to carry gasoline and allied products.  The pipeline is a common carrier.  The present western terminus of this pipeline is roughly five miles from the tank farm of the port district.  The port district is proposing to install a system of pipes which would connect the port district tank farm with the western terminus of the Salt Lake City pipeline.  You asked for an opinion on whether or not the port district has authority to proceed with such construction under the general powers granted to port districts even though the comprehensive scheme does not specifically mention pipelines.

            It is our conclusion that the board of commissioners of the port district is not vested with such authority.


            RCW 53.08.020 provides for the acquisition and operation of port facilities. RCW 53.20.010 requires the commissioners of a port district to adopt a comprehensive plan of harbor improvement in the district and provides for notice and public hearing thereon.  RCW 53.20.020 provides as follows:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "When such general plans have been adopted or approved, as aforesaid, every improvement to be made by said commission shall be made substantially in accordance therewith unless and until such general plans shall have been officially changed by the port commission after a public hearing thereon, of which at least ten days' notice shall be published in a newspaper of general circulation in such port district."

            InPort of Everett v. Everett Improvement Company, 124 Wash. 486, the court discussed the meaning of RRS 9695 (which is substantially the same as the quoted section,supra, except for a notice and hearing provision in the latter act) as follows:

            "* * * This section provides, it will be observed, that, when such general plans have been adopted, every improvement to be made by the commission shall be made substantially in accordance therewith, and that changes therein can be made only by a majority vote of the qualified electors of the port district at an election held for that purpose.  Manifestly, if it was the intent of the statute that the port commission could adopt as its comprehensive scheme the general powers conferred on the district, and thereafter construct such of the enumerated things as they please, this clause of the statute would have no meaning; there could be no departure from the comprehensive scheme without a departure from the powers conferred on the port district by the legislature."

            This case was cited with approval in Griggs v. Port of Tacoma, 150 Wash. 402, andEubanks v. Port of Seattle, 193 Wash. 498.

            It is our conclusion that the construction of a five mile pipeline as proposed constitutes a substantial departure from the comprehensive plan.  It follows that this project is in excess of the authority granted the port commissioners until the comprehensive plan has been officially changed by the port commission pursuant to RCW 53.20.020.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General