California v. United States

PETITIONER: California
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Criminal Court of Fulton County

DOCKET NO.: 77-285
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 438 US 645 (1978)
ARGUED: Mar 28, 1978
DECIDED: Jul 03, 1978

Roderick E. Walston - for petitioners
Roderick Eugene Walston -
Stephen R. Barnett - for respondent

Facts of the case


Media for California v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 28, 1978 in California v. United States

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - July 03, 1978 in California v. United States

Warren E. Burger:

The judgments and opinion of the Court in two cases, 77-285 California against the United States and United States against New Mexico will each be announced by Mr. Justice Rehnquist.

William H. Rehnquist:

We granted certiorari in these two cases to consider important questions of federal state relations in the field of water law, an area of the law which is of more than merely academic interest of the people of the arid and semi-arid Western part of this country.

In California against the United States, United States government sought to impound about two-and-a-half million acre feet of water from California's Stanislaus River as part of its central valley reclamation project.

The California State Water Resources Control Board, an institution in the city of California ruled that under State Water Law, the water could not be allocated to United States unless it agreed to various conditions dealing with the water's use.

The United States there upon brought suit in the Federal District court in Sacramento seeking a declaratory judgment that it need not comply with State Water Law.

The District Court held that while the United States must have apply to the State for appropriation permit.

California had the issue to permit without condition, if there was sufficient unappropriated water.

In the State appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit which affirmed.

In an opinion filed today, we reverse.

Section 8 of the Reclamation Act of 1902 provides that nothing in the Act should be construed as affecting or intended to affect or to in any way interfere with the laws of any states relating to the controlled appropriation use or distribution of water and the Section instructs the Secretary of the Interior to proceed in conformity with such laws in constructing reclamation projects.

The legislative history of the Reclamation Act of 1902, indeed the entire history of congressional legislation in the field of federal water law, clearly demonstrates that Congress intended to differ to State law and the appropriation and distribution of water impounded by federal reclamations projects.

California can impose any condition on the appropriation permits granted to the United States, that is not inconsistent with congressional directives.

We disallow any statements in our earlier cases that might be read to the contrary.

Mr. Justice White joined by Mr. Justice Brennan and Mr. Justice Marshall has filed a dissenting opinion in the California case.