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33 U.S. Code § 494 - Obstruction of navigation; alterations and removals; lights and signals; draws

No bridge erected or maintained under the provisions of sections 491 to 494 and 495 to 498 of this title, shall at any time unreasonably obstruct the free navigation of the waters over which it is constructed, and if any bridge erected in accordance with the provisions of said sections, shall, in the opinion of the Secretary of the department in which the Coast Guard is operating at any time unreasonably obstruct such navigation, either on account of insufficient height, width of span, or otherwise, or if there be difficulty in passing the draw opening or the drawspan of such bridge by rafts, steamboats, or other water craft, it shall be the duty of the Secretary of the department in which the Coast Guard is operating after giving the parties interested reasonable opportunity to be heard, to notify the persons owning or controlling such bridge to so alter the same as to render navigation through or under it reasonably free, easy, and unobstructed, stating in such notice the changes required to be made, and prescribing in each case a reasonable time in which to make such changes, and if at the end of the time so specified the changes so required have not been made, the persons owning or controlling such bridge shall be deemed guilty of a violation of said sections; and all such alterations shall be made and all such obstructions shall be removed at the expense of the persons owning or operating said bridge. The persons owning or operating any such bridge shall maintain, at their own expense, such lights and other signals thereon as the Commandant of the Coast Guard shall prescribe. If the bridge shall be constructed with a draw, then the draw shall be opened promptly by the persons owning or operating such bridge upon reasonable signal for the passage of boats and other water craft.

(Mar. 23, 1906, ch. 1130, § 4, 34 Stat. 85; Mar. 4, 1913, ch. 141, § 1, 37 Stat. 736; 1946 Reorg. Plan No. 3, §§ 101–104, eff. July 16, 1946, 11 F.R. 7875, 60 Stat. 1097; Pub. L. 97–449, § 2(d)(1), Jan. 12, 1983, 96 Stat. 2440; Pub. L. 100–17, title I, § 135(a), Apr. 2, 1987, 101 Stat. 173; Pub. L. 109–241, title IX, § 902(k), July 11, 2006, 120 Stat. 568; Pub. L. 111–281, title IX, § 903(a)(9), Oct. 15, 2010, 124 Stat. 3010; Pub. L. 114–120, title III, § 306(b)(2)(B), Feb. 8, 2016, 130 Stat. 55.)
Editorial Notes
Prior Provisions

Act July 5, 1884, ch. 229, § 8, 23 Stat. 148, relating to authority of Secretary of War to require owners of bridges which obstruct navigation to relieve the situation or be penalized, was probably omitted from the Code as superseded by this section and section 495 of this title, which by section 498b of this title were made applicable to bridges authorized prior to March 23, 1906.

Section would seem to supersede a provision of act Aug. 7, 1882, ch. 433, § 1, 22 Stat. 309, which read as follows:

“That all parties owning, occupying, or operating bridges over any navigable river shall maintain at their own expense, from sunset to sunrise, throughout the year, such lights on their bridges as may be required by the Light-House Board for the security of navigation: and in addition thereto all persons owning, occupying, or operating any bridge over any navigable river shall, in any event, maintain all lights on their bridge that may be necessary for the security of navigation.”

2016—Pub. L. 114–120 substituted “Secretary of the department in which the Coast Guard is operating” for “Secretary of Homeland Security” in two places.

2010—Pub. L. 111–281 amended directory language of Pub. L. 109–241, § 902(k). See 2006 Amendment note below.

2006—Pub. L. 109–241, § 902(k), as amended by Pub. L. 111–281, substituted “Secretary of Homeland Security” for “Secretary of Transportation” in two places.

1987—Pub. L. 100–17 struck out last sentence relating to tolls.

1983—Pub. L. 97–449 substituted “Secretary of Transportation” for “Secretary of War” wherever appearing. See Transfer of Functions note below.

Statutory Notes and Related Subsidiaries
Effective Date of 2010 Amendment

Pub. L. 111–281, title IX, § 903(a), Oct. 15, 2010, 124 Stat. 3010, provided that the amendment by section 903(a)(9) is effective with enactment of Pub. L. 109–241.

Connecticut River Bridges

Acts Aug. 7, 1939, ch. 503, 53 Stat. 1234, and Apr. 24, 1946, ch. 214, 60 Stat. 122, were amended by act Aug. 9, 1955, ch. 631, 69 Stat. 552, to provide that the last sentence of this section should not be applicable to bridges constructed pursuant to acts Aug. 7, 1939 and Apr. 24, 1946.

Transfer of Functions

For transfer of authorities, functions, personnel, and assets of the Coast Guard, including the authorities and functions of the Secretary of Transportation relating thereto, to the Department of Homeland Security, and for treatment of related references, see sections 468(b), 551(d), 552(d), and 557 of Title 6, Domestic Security, and the Department of Homeland Security Reorganization Plan of November 25, 2002, as modified, set out as a note under section 542 of Title 6.

Functions, powers, and duties of Secretary of the Army [formerly War] and other offices and officers of Department of the Army [formerly War] relating to reasonableness of tolls and to location and clearances of bridges and causeways in navigable waters of United States under this section transferred to and vested in Secretary of Transportation by section 6(g)(4)(A), (6)(B) of Pub. L. 89–670. Pub. L. 97–449 amended this section to reflect transfer made by section 6(g)(4)(A), (6)(B) of Pub. L. 89–670, and repealed section 6(g)(4)(A), (6)(B).

Coast Guard transferred to Department of Transportation, and functions, powers, and duties relating to Coast Guard of Secretary of the Treasury and of other officers and offices of Department of the Treasury transferred to Secretary of Transportation by Pub. L. 89–670, § 6(b)(1), Oct. 15, 1966, 80 Stat. 938. Section 6(b)(2) of Pub. L. 89–670, however, provided that notwithstanding such transfer of functions, Coast Guard shall operate as part of Navy in time of war or when the President directs as provided in former section 3 (now 103) of Title 14, Coast Guard. See section 108 of Title 49, Transportation.

Secretary of Commerce and Labor redesignated Secretary of Labor by act Mar. 4, 1913, which enacted Department of Labor.

Executive Documents
Transfer of Functions

For transfer of functions of other officers, employees, and agencies of Department of the Treasury, with certain exceptions, to Secretary of the Treasury with power to delegate, see Reorg. Plan No. 26 of 1950, §§ 1, 2, eff. July 31, 1950, 15 F.R. 4935, 64 Stat. 1280, 1281, set out in the Appendix to Title 5, Government Organization and Employees. Functions of Coast Guard, and Commandant of Coast Guard, excepted from transfer when Coast Guard is operating as part of Navy under former sections 1 and 3 (now 101 and 103) of Title 14, Coast Guard.

“Commandant of the Coast Guard” substituted in text for “Secretary of Commerce” on authority of Reorg. Plan No. 3 of 1946, §§ 101 to 104, set out in the Appendix to Title 5, Government Organization and Employees.