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INLAND WATERWAYS

INLAND WATERWAYS. The first inland waterways in Texas were its many natural streams. Because of a lack of overland roads, early Texas pioneers used natural streams as transportation routes, and this was one of the reasons they placed special value on land adjacent to streams. Since many wanted to survey and purchase land on both sides of a stream, the Republic of Texas enacted a statute in 1837 prohibiting the lines of land surveys from crossing a navigable stream. The sole purpose of the statute was to regulate land surveyance, but to accomplish this, the statute had to prescribe a rule for determining navigability of a stream. For purposes of the statute, all streams are considered navigable as far upstream as they retain an average width of thirty feet. Since enactment of this statute, various courts, including the Texas Supreme Court, have upheld this rule and have maintained that navigable streams as defined by the statute ("navigable at law") are public streams, their beds and waters owned by the state of Texas in trust for the benefit and best interests of all the people. A stream, however, may be "navigable at law" but not "navigable in fact," because of constraints such as intermittent or too-shallow water flow, a serpentine course, or logjams. In addition, as cargo vessels have grown ever larger, they have needed in turn ever deeper and wider waterways. By the early 1990s many man-made canals and man-modified natural watercourses had extended the growing system of inland waterways. The Victoria Barge Canal from San Antonio Bay to Blue Bayou near Victoria and the 1,600-mile-long Red River Waterway are examples of man-made and man-modified inland waterways. The Texas legislature, recognizing the growing importance of Texas ports to national and international trade and the need to more effectively transport goods between the ports and inland areas, passed several acts, in 1909, 1921, and 1929, which established various types of navigation districts enabled to "construct and maintain canals and waterways to permit or aid navigation." The acts also provided for "the improvement, preservation, and conservation of inland and coastal water for navigation." Cooperation between some navigation districts and the federal government has resulted in development of many coastal navigation waterways. Examples of federally owned, operated, or built coastal navigation waterways include the Channel to Echo and Morgan Bluff; the Neches River Channel; the Sabine-Neches Waterway (see SABINE-NECHES WATERWAY AND SABINE PASS SHIP CHANNEL); the Channel to Liberty; the Channel to Anahuac; the Buffalo Bayou Channel; the Clear Creek Channel; the Galveston, Houston and Texas City Ship Channel; the Bastrop Bayou Channel; the Oyster Creek Channel; the Colorado River Channel; the Red Bluff Channel; the Rockport Channel; the Corpus Christi Ship Channel; and the Harlingen Channel.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Wells A. Hutchins, The Texas Law of Water Rights (Austin: Texas Legislature and Texas Board of Waters Engineers, 1961). Vernon's Texas Code Annotated, Water Code 61.111 and 62.101.

Glynda L. Mercier

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Glynda L. Mercier, "INLAND WATERWAYS," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/eti01), accessed September 01, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.