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U.S. Supreme Court

Southern Pacific Co. v. Olympian Dredging Co., 260 U.S. 205 (1922)

Southern Pacific Co. v. Olympian Dredging Company

No. 78

Argued October 19, 1922

Decided November 13, 1922

260 U.S. 205


1. By the Act of September 19, 1890, c. 907, 26 Stat. 453, Congress assumed jurisdiction of the subject of obstructions to navigation and committed to the Secretary of War all necessary administrative power over such obstructions. P. 260 U. S. 208.

2. Under § 7 of that act, a new bridge over a navigable stream cannot lawfully be constructed by a railroad company before the location and plans have been approved by the Secretary of War; authority from the state legislature is not enough. P. 260 U. S. 208.

3. The power of the Secretary to approve or disapprove includes the power to condition an approval. P. 260 U. S. 208.

4. Where a railroad company, operating a lawful bridge, obtained the Secretary's approval for a new one nearby upon the condition that it remove the old one and remove the piers from the riverbed to a specified depth below lowest water level as shown by an existing and specified gauge, and fully complied with the condition, leaving the channel unobstructed, held that the condition was an authoritative determination of what was reasonably necessary to insure free and safe navigation, upon which the company was entitled to rely, and that where, many years later, the government, by dredging, lowered the bed and surface of the river so that stumps of the piles that had constituted the old piers protruded above the new bed, forming an obstruction which damaged a vessel, the Railroad Company was not liable. P. 260 U. S. 209.

270 F.3d 4 reversed.

Certiorari to a decree of the circuit court of appeals which reversed a decree of the district court dismissing a libel in admiralty for damages due to collision of the present respondent's vessel with an obstruction in a navigable channel.

Page 260 U. S. 206

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