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U.S. Supreme Court

Port of Seattle v. Oregon & Washington R. Co., 255 U.S. 56 (1921)

Port of Seattle v. Oregon & Washington Railroad Company

No. 107

Argued December 6, 1920

Decided January 31, 1921

255 U.S. 56


1. The navigable waters in Washington and the lands under them passed to the state upon its creation in full proprietary ownership, subject to the federal control over navigation. P. 255 U. S. 63.

2. In conveying tide lands, the state is free to grant them with rights chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 255 U. S. 57

in the adjoining water area, or to withhold such rights completely; the effect of the conveyance in this regard is determined by the local law. P. 255 U. S. 63.

3. Under the Washington law, a grantee from the uplands on a natural navigable waterway takes only to high water mark, without riparian or littoral rights. P. 255 U. S. 64.

4. So too, a grant by the a described parcel of tide land conveys no rights in or over adjoining tide land or water, these being withheld in order that the state may not be hampered in developing waterways and harbors in the public interest. P. 255 U. S. 66.

5. The same rule applies to a conveyance of tide land reclaimed by the state by filling and abutting on a natural waterway confined by such reclamation and deepened by dredging. P. 255 U. S. 67.

6. The State of Washington, through the Port of Seattle, filled in a large area of tide land up to bulkheads confining a waterway; dredged a channel in the waterway, leaving shoals on either side of it; divided the land into numbered blocks and lots, and conveyed lots abutting on the waterway by a deed describing them by their numbers, without mention of the waterway or of water rights, but referring to a plat on which the boundaries of the lots were set forth, with lineal measurements, and on which the waterway was also shown, and, within it, on each side and some distance from the bulkheads, a line marked "Pierhead Line."


(1) That, in view of the policy of the state to retain control over navigable waters, an intention to convey with the lots a right to wharf out to the line and thus gain access to the fairway could not be implied, even assuming that there was no law at the time under which permission to do so could be granted by the state harbor commissioners.

(2) That the establishment of the pierhead line by the United States did not create a right to wharf out as against the state, and, semble, under the state law, its presence on a plat had no other effect than as a publication of the federal action. P. 255 U. S. 67.

7. A municipal corporation of a state is a citizen of that state within the rule governing removal of causes to the district court. P. 255 U. S. 70.

8. The right to remove a suit brought by a municipality to quiet the title of the state to a navigable waterway against an abutting landowner claiming a right to wharf out cannot be denied on the ground that the state is the real party in interest where the municipality has an independent financial interest in the controversy. Id.


The case is stated in the opinion. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 255 U. S. 58

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