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A body of water is navigable in law when it is navigable in fact. The factual question turns on whether the evidence shows a body of water to be suitable by its depth, width and location for commerce. However, lack of commercial traffic does not preclude a finding of navigability. A stream, to be navigable, must be usable for commerce in its natural state or ordinary condition. Construction of a dam across a bayou does not change its status as a navigable stream. A body of water can be navigable despite natural or man-made obstructions.
Plaintiffs, the State of Louisiana and the Police Jury of the Parish of St. Landry, asked that the defendants, Two O'Clock Bayou Land Company, Inc., and its lessee, Creighton James Nall, be enjoined from maintaining a cable across a stream. Plaintiffs also sought a declaration that the stream was navigable and subject to public use. The trial court declared the stream navigable and granted the permanent injunction.
Was the stream navigable, entitling the Parish and the State to enjoin its obstruction by privately owned barriers?
On appeal, the court agreed with the trial court's judgment that the stream was navigable. Although there were certain difficulties in the form of natural and man-made barriers, the court found that the stream, in its natural state, afforded a channel for navigation. Therefore, the parish's police jury and the State were entitled, pursuant to La. Civ. Code Ann. art. 453 and La. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 14:96 and 14:97, to enjoin its obstruction by privately owned barriers. Accordingly, the trial court's judgment was affirmed.