Ivanhoe Irrigation Dist. v. McCracken

PETITIONER: Ivanhoe Irrigation Dist.
LOCATION: United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1957-1958)

CITATION: 357 US 275 (1958)
ARGUED: Apr 29, 1958
DECIDED: Jun 23, 1958

Facts of the case


Media for Ivanhoe Irrigation Dist. v. McCracken

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 29, 1958 (Part 1) in Ivanhoe Irrigation Dist. v. McCracken

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 29, 1958 (Part 2) in Ivanhoe Irrigation Dist. v. McCracken

Earl Warren:

Mr. Davis, you may proceed.

John F . Davis:

Mr. Chief Justice, if the Court please.

When we rose for lunch, I was discussing the question of interpretation of the federal reclamation law.

And I was addressing myself to the problem of reconciling the two provisions in the reclamation law, one of which says that the Secretary of Interior shall proceed in accordance with state law and the other which says that none of -- no project water shall be distributed to acreage exceeding 160 acres in one -- one ownership.

And the problem which is before the Court is to determine whether which one -- which of these provisions shouldn't affect, prevail or whether they can both prevail in this instance.

I think it's made easier in this case because of the fact that the California law in the federal cooperation law specifically states that project water received by irrigation districts shall be distributed in accordance with the acts of Congress and rules and -- applicable laws of Congress and rules and regulations thereunder.

But in any event, I believe that the specific provision for 160-acre limitation must prevail over the more general provision which deals primarily with methods of appropriating water and in this case, of course, the Secretary of Interior, the Bureau of Reclamation has achieved its water rights through the state procedures of -- of proper appropriation.

Unfortunately, as far as the Central Valley Project is concerned, whatever the interpretation we might otherwise give to the statutes, subsequent actions in Congress make it clear that Congress intends the 160-acre limitation to apply.

In both 1944 and 1945, specific acts were introduced in Congress to exempt the Central Valley Project from the 160-acre limitation and extensive hearings were held on this matter and in both cases, Congress refused to pass the statutes which would provide the exemption.

Felix Frankfurter:

You mean, the -- the bills came up and they were voted down?

John F . Davis:

No,the bills died in committee, Mr. Justice.

Felix Frankfurter:

Well, you could make strong argument to fill the need of that argument.

John F . Davis:

I will say that bills were passed and those were the Appropriation Acts.

The Secretary of Interior reported to Congress time and time again with respect to these specific contracts and this specific problem of a 160-acre limitation.

And Congress, with this -- with this information before them, proceeded to appropriate in the neighborhood of $400 million for the carrying of the project.

And I may say also with respect to the Santa Barbara Project that a companion project where the water was to be delivered through underground sources to what the reclamation project was specifically designed to replenish underground water.

Congress specifically in that case exempted the project from a 160-acre limitation and for the very easy reason that no one could distinguish between project water and non-project water when it was drawn out through wells.

But the fact that Congress would specifically exempt this California Project from a 160-acre limitation would be an indication that when they didn't exempt it, they meant it to apply.

Felix Frankfurter:

You go back to the Reclamation Act of 1902, do you not?

John F . Davis:

Well, that is where the 160-acre limitation first --

Felix Frankfurter:


John F . Davis:

-- appeared.

The one that's specifically applicable here is 26.

Felix Frankfurter:

I understand that.

But in the course of all 60 odd years (Inaudible) in this provision, what has been the administrative practice.

In other words, what project has been financed or regulated by the Department of the Interior with an application of the 160-acre limitation.

John F . Davis:

Congress has --

Felix Frankfurter:

(Inaudible) first, first, in the action of the Secretary, has any project do not have that provision?

John F . Davis:

The Secretary of Interior and Bureau of Reclamation have applied it in all projects except for those where Congress has made other -- other provisions uniformly.

Felix Frankfurter:

Now, those project or -- or projects subject expressly, manifesting that the property of the Interior and Bureau of Reclamation policy has been before Congress in some form or rather in the way in which we indicated (Inaudible) before Congress, is it not?