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U.S. Supreme Court

Hannibal Bridge Co. v. United States, 221 U.S. 194 (1911)

Hannibal Bridge Co. v. United States

No. 100

Argued April 17, 1911

Decided May 15, 1911

221 U.S. 194


Section 18 of the Act of March 3, 1899, c. 425, 30 Stat. 1153, authorizing the Secretary of War to require the removal of bridges which are obstructions to navigation over navigable waterways of the United States, is within the constitutional powers of Congress, and was enacted to carry out the declared policy of the government as to the free and unobstructed navigation of waters of the United States over which Congress has paramount control in virtue of its power to regulate commerce.

As the statute only imposes on the Secretary of War the duty of attending to details necessary to carry out such declared policy, it is not an unconstitutional delegation of legislative or judicial power to an executive officer.

Requiring the alteration of a bridge which is an obstruction to navigation is not a taking of property of the owners of such bridge within the meaning of the Constitution.

Notice was duly served on all parties in interest and the hearings given on the report of the Chief of Engineers by the Secretary of War were in accord with the statute, and the owners of the bridge the removal whereof was ordered cannot complain.

The head of an executive department of this government cannot himself sign every official communication emanating from his department, and a proper notice signed by the assistant secretary has the same force as though signed by the secretary.

The notice of alterations required was sufficient in this case, as it left no reasonable doubt as to what was to be done.

The fact that a bridge was erected over a navigable water of the United States under authority of the Act of July 25, 1866, c. 246, 14 Stat. 244, does not prevent Congress from ordering its removal when it becomes an obstruction, as the act expressly reserves the right to alter or amend it so as to prevent obstructions to navigation. Union Bridge Co. v. United States, 204 U. S. 364.

Page 221 U. S. 195

The facts, which involve the construction of the provisions of the Act of March 3, 1899, relating to the removal of obstructions from navigable waters of the United States and the validity of proceedings taken and orders made thereunder in Connection with plaintiff in error's bridge over the Mississippi River at Hannibal, Missouri, are stated in the opinion.

Page 221 U. S. 199

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