33 CFR 329.9 - Time at which commerce exists or determination is made.
(a) Past use. A waterbody which was navigable in its natural or improved state, or which was susceptible of reasonable improvement (as discussed in § 329.8(b) of this part) retains its character as “navigable in law” even though it is not presently used for commerce, or is presently incapable of such use because of changed conditions or the presence of obstructions. Nor does absence of use because of changed economic conditions affect the legal character of the waterbody. Once having attained the character of “navigable in law,” the Federal authority remains in existence, and cannot be abandoned by administrative officers or court action. Nor is mere inattention or ambiguous action by Congress an abandonment of Federal control. However, express statutory declarations by Congress that described portions of a waterbody are non-navigable, or have been abandoned, are binding upon the Department of the Army. Each statute must be carefully examined, since Congress often reserves the power to amend the Act, or assigns special duties of supervision and control to the Secretary of the Army or Chief of Engineers.
(b) Future or potential use. Navigability may also be found in a waterbody's susceptibility for use in its ordinary condition or by reasonable improvement to transport interstate commerce. This may be either in its natural or improved condition, and may thus be existent although there has been no actual use to date. Non-use in the past therefore does not prevent recognition of the potential for future use.