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WILLAMETTE IRON BRIDGE COMPANY v. HATCH.

decided: March 19, 1888.

WILLAMETTE IRON BRIDGE COMPANY
v.
HATCH.



APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE DISTRICT OF OREGON.

Author: Bradley

[ 125 U.S. Page 2]

 MR. JUSTICE BRADLEY delivered the opinion of the court.

This is a bill of review filed by the appellants, a corporation of Oregon, to obtain the reversal of a decree made by the court below against them in favor of Hatch and Lownsdale, the appellees. The case is shortly this: On the 18th of October, 1878, the legislature of Oregon passed an act entitled "An act to authorize the construction of a bridge on the Willamette River between the city of Portland and the city of East Portland, in Multnomah County, State of Oregon;" by which it was enacted as follows, to wit: "Be it enacted, &c., That it shall be lawful for the Portland Bridge Company, a corporation duly incorporated under and in conformity with the laws of the State of Oregon, or its assigns, and that said corporation or its assigns be and are hereby authorized and empowered to construct, build, maintain, use, or cause to be constructed, built and maintained or used, a bridge across the Willamette River between Portland and East Portland in Multnomah County, State of Oregon, for any and all purposes of travel or commerce, said beidge to be erected at any time within six years after the passage and approval of this act, at such point or location on the banks of said river, on and along any of the streets of either of said cities of Portland and East Portland as may be selected or determined on by said corporation or its assigns, on or above Morrison Street of said city of Portland and M

[ 125 U.S. Page 3]

     Street of said city of East Portland, the same to be deemed a lawful structure: Provided, that there shall be placed and maintained in said bridge a good and sufficient draw of not less than one hundred feet in the clear in width of a passage way, and so constructed and maintained as not to injuriously impede and obstruct the free navigation of said river, but so as to allow the easy and reasonable passage of vessels through said bridge; and provided, that the approaches on the Portland side to said bridge shall conform to the present grade of Front Street in said city of Portland."

In the month of July, 1880, the appellants, the Willamette Iron Bridge Company, claiming to be assignees of the Portland Bridge Company, and to act under and by authority of said law, began the construction of a bridge across the Willamette River from the foot of Morrison Street, in the city of Portland, and proceeded in the work so far as to erect piers on the bed of the river, with a draw pier in the channel on which a pivot draw was to be placed with a clear passage way on each side, when open, of 100 feet in width, or, as the appellants allege, 105 feet in width.

On the 3d of January, 1881, whilst the appellants were thus engaged in erecting the bridge, Hatch and Lownsdale filed a bill in the Circuit Court of the United States for an injunction to restrain the appellants from further proceeding with the work, and to compel them to abate and remove the structures already placed in the river.This bill described the complainants therein as citizens of the United States residing at Portland, in the State of Oregon, and the defendants as a corporation organized under the laws of that State, having its office and principal place of business at Portland, and alleged that the Willamette River is a known public river of the United States, situate within the State of Oregon, navigated by licensed and enrolled and registered sea-going vessels engaged in commerce with foreign nations and with other States, upon the ocean and by way of the Columbia River, also a known public and navigable river of the United States, from its confluence with the Columbia River to the docks and wharves of the port of Portland, and that, up to and beyond the wharves and warehouses

[ 125 U.S. Page 4]

     of the complainants, Hatch and Lownsdale, it is within the ebb and flow of the ocean tides. That, by the act of Congress of February 14th, 1859, admitting the State of Oregon into the Union, it is declared "that all the navigable waters of said States shall be common highways and forever free, as well to the inhabitants of said State as to all other citizens of the United States, without any tax, duty, impost, or toll therefor." 11 Stat. 383. That Congress has established a port of entry at the city of Portland, on the Willamette River, and has required vessels which navigate it to be enrolled and licensed, etc., and has frequently directed the improvement of the navigation of the said river, and appropriated money for that purpose; and by an act approved February 2d, 1870, giving consent to the erection of another bridge across said river from Portland to East Portland, asserted the powers of the United States to regulate commerce upon said river and to prevent obstruction to the navigation of the same, and in said act declared: "But until the Secretary of War approves the plan and location of said bridge and notifies the said corporation, association, or company of the same, the bridge shall not be built or commenced." The complainants further stated that Lownsdale was the owner and Hatch the lessee of a certain wharf and warehouses in Portland, situated about 750 feet above the proposed bridge, heretofore accessible to and used by sea-going vessels and others; and that Hatch is the owner of a steam tow-boat, used for towing vessels up and down the river to and from the said wharves and warehouses and others in the city; that vessels of 2000 tons have been in the habit of navigating the river for a mile above the site of the proposed bridge; and that the said river ought to remain free and unobstructed. But they charge that the bridge and piers will be a serious obstruction to this commerce; that the passage ways will not be sufficient for sea-going vessels with their tugs; that the bridge is being constructed diagonally, and not at right angles, to the current of the river; that it will arrest and pile up the floating ice and timber in high stages of water in such a way as to obstruct the passage of vessels; and, in various other particulars stated in the bill, it is charged that the bridge will be a

[ 125 U.S. Page 5]

     serious obstruction to the navigation of the river. The complainants contended that the act of the legislature, authorizing the bridge, contravenes the laws of the United States declaring the river free, and was not passed with the consent of Congress, and was a wrongful assumption of power on the part of the State; and alleged that the pretended assignment by the Portland Bridge Company to the defendants (the Willamette Iron Bridge Company) was not in good faith, and was not authorized by the directors of the former; and stated various other matters of alleged irregularity and illegality on the part of the Portland Company and the defendants. They also stated that the bridge was not being constructed in conformity with the requirements of the state law; that by reason of its diagonal position across the river, the thread of the current formed an acute angle with the line of the bridge, and that the draws do not afford more than 87 feet of a passage way for the passage of vessels; and that vessels will be unable to pass through said bridge for at least four months of the busiest shipping season of the year.

The defendants in that case, the Willamette Iron Bridge Company, filed an answer in which they admitted that they were building the bridge, and claimed to do so as assignees in good faith of the Portland Bridge Company, under and by virtue of the act of the legislature before mentioned, but denied the allegations of the bill with regard to the injurious effects of the bridge upon the navigation of the river, and averred that they were complying in every respect with the state law.

The cause being put at issue, and proofs being taken on the 22d October, 1881, a decree was made in favor of the complainants for a perpetual injunction against the building of the bridge, and for an abatement of the portion already built. The decision of the case was placed principally on the ground that the bridge would be, and that the piers were, an obstruction to the navigation of the river, contrary to the act of Congress passed in 1859, admitting Oregon into the Union, and declaring "that all the navigable waters of the said State shall be common highways, and forever free, as well to the inhabitants

[ 125 U.S. Page 6]

     of said State as to all other citizens of the United States, without any tax, duty, impost, or toll therefor;" and that, without the consent of Congress, a state law was not sufficient authority for the erection of such a structure; and, even if it was, the bridge did not conform to the requirements of the state law. See Hatch v. Willamette Iron Bridg Co., 7 Sawyer; 127, 141.The defendants took an appeal which was not prosecuted; but after the decision of this court in the case of Escanaba Co. v. Chicago, 107 U.S. 678, they filed the present bill of review for the reversal of the decree.

The reasons assigned for reversal are, amongst others, that the court erred in holding and ...


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