Washington v. Oregon
211 U.S. 127 (1908)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Washington v. Oregon, 211 U.S. 127 (1908)

Washington v. Oregon

No. 3

Argued January 8, 9, 1908

Decided November 16, 1908

211 U.S. 127

Syllabus

Congress cannot change the boundary of a state without its consent. In the absence of specific statement to that effect, the middle of a river, or the middle of the main channel of a river, is not necessarily the exact line when such river separates two states, and where the boundary is properly established in the center of a particular channel, it so remains, subject to changes by accretion, notwithstanding another channel may become more important and be regarded as the main channel of the river.

The fact that the south channel of the Columbia River has become more important than the north channel has not changed the boundary between the States of Oregon and Washington as fixed by the Act of February 14, 1859, c. 33, 11 Stat. 383, admitting Oregon to the Union, and that boundary at Sand Island is the center of the north channel of the Columbia River, subject only to changes by accretion.

The boundary line between Oregon and Washington established as indicated on maps annexed to the opinion.

In boundary cases where both parties are alike interested, the costs are equally divided between them.

This is an original suit, commenced in this Court on February

Page 211 U. S. 128

26, 1906, by the State of Washington against the State of Oregon, to determine their boundary line. Pleadings were filed, testimony taken before a commissioner by consent of the parties, and on these pleadings and proofs the case has been argued and submitted. The maps or charts accompanying this opinion have been prepared from exhibits filed by the parties, and will aid to an understanding of the case.

A brief chronological statement is that, on August 14, 1848, the Territory of Oregon was established, 9 Stat. 323, c. 177, and on March 2, 1853, the Territory of Washington, including all that portion of Oregon Territory lying north of the middle of the main channel of the Columbia River. 10 Stat. 172, c. 90. On February 14, 1859, Oregon was admitted into the Union. The boundary, so far as is important in this controversy, is as follows., 11 Stat. 383, c. 33:

"Beginning one marine league at sea due west from the point where the forty-second parallel of north latitude intersects the same; thence northerly at the same distance from the line of the coast, lying west and opposite the state, including all islands within the jurisdiction of the United States, to a point due west and opposite the middle of the north ship channel of the Columbia River; thence easterly, to and up the middle channel of said river, and where it is divided by islands, up the middle of the widest channel thereof, to a point near Fort Walla-Walla."

On February 22, 1889, an act was passed providing for the admission of Washington. 25 Stat. 676, c. 180. On November 11, 1889, the President, as authorized by § 8 of the statute last referred to, issued his proclamation, declaring Washington duly admitted into the Union. 26 Stat. 1552. The material part of the boundary described in the Constitution of that state is --

"Beginning at a point in the Pacific Ocean one marine league due west of and opposite the middle of the mouth of the north ship channel of the Columbia River, thence running easterly to and up the middle channel of said river, and where

Page 211 U. S. 129

it is divided by islands up the middle of the widest channel thereof to where the forty-sixth parallel of north latitude crosses said river, near the mouth of the Walla Walla River."

Art. XXIV, § 1; 2 Hill's Stats. & Codes of washington, Vol. 2, p. 851.

Page 211 U. S. 130

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