Willink v. United States,
240 U.S. 572 (1916)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Willink v. United States, 240 U.S. 572 (1916)

Willink v. United States

No. 180

Argued January 21, 1916

Decided April 3, 1916

240 U.S. 572


The mere location by the Secretary of War of a harbor line does not amount to a taking of property within the line or its appropriation to public use, nor does a taking result from the request of an officer of the United States to a riparian owner to vacate if such request is neither acceded to nor enforced.

The fact that the government make a contract to cut away land

Page 240 U. S. 573

within a harbor line location does not amount to a taking of such land if there was no attempt to perform the contract.

Whatever rights a riparian owner may have in land below mean high water line of a navigable and tidal river, they are subordinate to the public right of navigation and the power of Congress to employ all appropriate means to keep the river open and navigation unobstructed.

Congress may prevent renewal of existing obstructions below mean high water, if navigation may be injuriously affected thereby, and the owner is not entitled to compensation therefor.

In this case, a riparian owner on the Savannah River was held not to be entitled to recover as upon an implied contract for taking his property by reason of damages alleged to have been sustained by him in consequence of the exercise of the power of Congress over navigable waters.

38 Ct.Cl. 693, 49 Ct.Cl. 701, affirmed.

The facts, which involve the right of the owner of a wharf in the harbor of the Savannah River to recover from the government as upon an implied contract for the taking of his property in the improvement of that harbor, are stated in the opinion.

Page 240 U. S. 577

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