Tatum v. Blackstock

Decision Date25 June 1963
Docket NumberNo. 19906.,19906.
Citation319 F.2d 397
PartiesLester L. TATUM, individually and as Trustee, Appellant, v. H. W. BLACKSTOCK, Appellee.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Fifth Circuit

St. John Garwood, Jr., Houston, Tex., for appellant.

Myron M. Sheinfeld, Gerald S. Gordon, Houston, Tex., for appellee.

Before HUTCHESON, WISDOM and GEWIN, Circuit Judges.

GEWIN, Circuit Judge.

This is an appeal by the defendant below from an order granting a preliminary injunction by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, enjoining the appellant Tatum from further construction activities on an area of low land or tidal flat, which is substantially covered by water at high tide.

The area consists of approximately 14 acres and it juts northward into Taylor Lake from a subdivision in which the plaintiff owns residence property (his home). On the west side of the area is Taylor Bayou, a navigable stream which empties into Clear Lake some 500 feet south of the area in question. At the point where plaintiff's property and other property in the subdivision join this low tidal flat, a man made channel has been dug running from the channel of Taylor Bayou on the west in an easterly direction and forming the south and east boundaries of the tidal flat, connecting with Taylor Lake. Thus the area is now completely surrounded by navigable water and in effect what was a peninsula is now rendered an island by the cutting of the man made channel, and the channel is navigable water of the United States.

The activities of appellant about which complaint is made consist of placing a pontoon bridge from the west side of the natural channel over to the tidal flat, the moving of construction, earth moving, and dredging equipment across the bridge onto the area, and the filling in of the area by transporting soil across the bridge and by dredging operations. After receiving notice and a complaint from the appellee, the Corps of Engineers, by letter dated May 23, 1962, ordered appellant to remove the bridge because it was erected in violation of 33 U.S.C.A. § 401, which makes unlawful "the construction of any bridge * * * over or in any * * * navigable water of the United States until the consent of Congress to the building of such structures shall have been obtained * * * and approved by the Chief of Engineers * * *," and 33 U.S.C.A. § 403, which prohibits any construction, excavating and filling in any navigable waters of the United States without the authorization of Congress and the Chief of Engineers. The letter of the Corps of Engineers did not mention any of appellant's activities except to direct the removal of the bridge within 24 hours from receipt of the letter. Appellant removed the bridge by 9:30 P.M. on May 25, 1962.

On May 24, 1962, appellee filed suit in the United States District Court alleging that any construction on the tidal flat would alter the flow of waters in and over the area and the surrounding channels causing irreparable damage to his property, and praying that appellant be enjoined from further construction activities. Appellee testified that with the exception of three mounds, the tidal flat was regularly submerged by the ebb and flow of the tide;1 that the elevation of the area, if appellant be allowed to continue, would block this flow resulting in an increase in the water level of the channel adjacent to appellee's property, flooding part of his property, resulting in silting of his property, and possibly affecting the navigability of the south end of Taylor Lake.2 District Counsel of the Corps of Engineers testified that the Corps had declared the natural channel, over which appellant had placed his bridge, to be a navigable waterway, and accordingly, a permit would be required for the construction of the bridge involved. Indeed, no issue was made as to that fact.

It is clear that it is necessary to obtain a permit from the Corps of Engineers under existing law and regulations before submerged land may lawfully be filled, excavated, channelled and other similar activities performed thereon such as contemplated here, if the area is navigable, or if the proposed work would affect nearby navigable waters. The representatives of the Corps of Engineers who testified refused to state whether or not the area involved was navigable or non-navigable within the meaning of applicable regulations. After hearing the evidence, the court enjoined the appellant from further construction activities on the property involved until the appellant obtains a permit from the Corps of Engineers, or obtains some expression from them that no permit is required.

The appellant contends that the court erred with respect to the following: (a) in assuming jurisdiction of appellee's suit because there was no showing of sufficient special injury to confer jurisdiction; (b) the court erred in assuming jurisdiction over any activity other than placing the pontoon bridge, in the absence of a prior administrative determination that such activity affected navigation or navigable capacity and required a permit; and (c) that the court erred in assuming jurisdiction over the work being done on the disputed area because it is contended that such work was not related to navigation and could not affect navigable capacity of neighboring waters.

It is true that the court made no special findings of fact regarding special injury. The record does support the conclusion however, that if the appellant is allowed to proceed, the appellee's property is likely to be flooded, silted, the water level of the channel adjacent to appellee's property changed, and navigability in the south end of Taylor Lake possibly may be affected in some manner. In Neches Canal Co. v. Miller & Vidor Lumber Co., 5 Cir., 1928, 24 F.2d 763, this court held as follows:

"The Lumber Company, being the user of the navigable stream which was obstructed in violation of the statute, was a beneficiary of the statute forbidding its obstruction, and the remedy given by the statute was available in behalf of the Lumber Company. The suit was maintainable in the court below as one arising under the laws of the United States, as a right asserted and a remedy sought by the amended bill were based on acts of Congress. Cummings v. Chicago, 188 U.S. 410, 23 S.Ct. 472, 47 L.Ed. 525. When the suit was brought it was maintainable on the equity side of the court, as under the state of facts alleged in the amended bill the equitable remedy of injunction was grantable. The case, being properly in a court of equity, could be retained to grant relief which would not be grantable, but for the presence of the equitable feature when the suit was brought."

In Neches a sand dam was constructed across the Neches River without obtaining a permit as required by 33 U.S.C.A. § 401. § 406 contains the following provision:

"* * * the removal of any structures or parts of structures erected in violation of the provisions of the said sections may be enforced by the injunction of any district court * * *."

It should be noted that at the time suit was filed by Blackstock, the plaintiff, appellant's bridge was in place. If the area is navigable, the activities of the appellant would require a permit, and the record amply supports the conclusion that navigable waters would be affected by such activities. Under authority of the Neches case we conclude that the court below had jurisdiction.

The appellant's other two contentions relating to the assumption of jurisdiction over the work on the disputed area in the absence of showing that a permit is required, and his contention that the work was not related to navigation and could not affect navigable capacity of neighboring waters, will be considered together. The appellant apparently takes the position that he is free to develop the property in question as he pleases until the Corps of Engineers restrains him. The representatives of the Corps of Engineers refused to state whether or not the area was considered navigable or whether the work being performed and proposed to be done related to navigation or could affect the navigable capacity of neighboring waters or the area within the expansion of nearby navigable waters. See 33 U.S.C.A. §§ 401, 403. There was some testimony from such representatives which tended to indicate that the area was either navigable or related to navigation or affected the navigable capacity of neighboring waters.3 In the final analysis however, the representatives of the Corps of Engineers refused to classify the area or to state whether a permit was actually necessary.

The trial court did not affirmatively find that the area was navigable, but enjoined further activity pending a decision by the Corps of Engineers. Otherwise stated, the court felt that such activities should be enjoined until a permit was obtained from the Corps of Engineers, or until the Corps made some expression...

To continue reading

Request your trial
24 cases
  • Sierra Club v. Andrus, s. 76-1464
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit
    • October 31, 1979
    ...recovered the expense it had incurred in raising its logs, which had sunk in the river because of the obstruction. In Tatum v. Blackstock, 319 F.2d 397 (5th Cir. 1963), a landowner with property adjacent to navigable waters sought to enjoin unauthorized dredging and filling, which would hav......
  • Pillsbury Co. v. Midland Enterprises, Inc., Civ. A. No. 87-5041.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Louisiana
    • June 21, 1989
    ...Mississippi River at the St. Louis Harbor from 4.7 feet to 30.3 feet in just 5 days). 20 See 33 U.S.C. §§ 403-404; Tatum v. Blackstock, 319 F.2d 397, 399 (5th Cir.1963); see also United States v. Lewis, 355 F.Supp. 1132, 1136-37 (S.D.Ga.1973) (the Corps' authority over a navigable river ext......
  • Intracoastal Transp., Inc. v. Decatur County, Georgia
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fifth Circuit
    • August 28, 1973
    ...many equitable considerations which influenced the reasoning of the court that are not present here. See generally, Tatum v. Black-stock, 319 F.2d 397 (5th Cir. 1963) (suit between private The instant suit is for damages against a State. We conclude that under the teachings of the Parden an......
  • United States v. Tull, Civ. A. No. 81-688-N.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Virginia
    • September 28, 1983
    ...constituting navigable waterways of the United States for purposes of the Corps' jurisdiction under 33 U.S.C. § 403. See Tatum v. Blackstock, 319 F.2d 397 (5th Cir.1963). The discharge of any pollutant by any person is expressly prohibited by law, except as provided in sections 1312, 1316, ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT