Texas v. New Mexico



ARGUED: Oct 10, 1955
DECIDED: Feb 25, 1957

Facts of the case


Media for Texas v. New Mexico

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 10, 1955 (Part 1) in Texas v. New Mexico

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 10, 1955 (Part 2) in Texas v. New Mexico

Earl Warren:

-- proceed.

Eugene T. Edwards:

If it please the Court.

There's one other brief reference that I want to make in connection with the contract in 1951, September 24th, 1951, whereby the Government is expecting to take over the operation of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District facilities.

And that is the case of Nebraska against Wyoming, 325 U.S. 589, wherein the opinion was written by Mr. Justice Douglas.

That was the case -- a suit of Nebraska against Wyoming to determine the rights of Nebraska and Wyoming in the waters of the Laramie River, I believe, and Nebraska had claimed that Wyoming was making excessive appropriations of the waters of the river in that State to the detriment of appropriators in Nebraska.

The -- the United States intervened ultimately in that case.

They hadn't done so when it originated but it did before its final conclusion and set up their rights which they claimed to exist by reason of the ownership of the water as a result of the construction of reclamation works and reservoirs in Wyoming under the authority of the Wyoming irrigation statutes.

It was held in that case that to allocate water rights in an interstate stream to the several states in nowise interferes with the ownership and operation by the United States of the storage and power plants, works and facilities constructed by it on the stream pursuant to the Reclamation Act or under that Act, the water does not belong to the United States but it's appurtenant to the land served by the project.

Now, that --

William O. Douglas:

The case I think was United States (Inaudible) Wyoming.

Eugene T. Edwards:

That's right.

William O. Douglas:


Eugene T. Edwards:

There are -- there are two reports of that case as Your Honor will recall.

The first one was back 10 years before the one in which Your Honor wrote the opinion and in the -- in the first report of the case, Colorado had not been made a party and the United States had not intervened.

And Nebraska in -- and Wyoming in that case was insisting that Colorado was an indispensable party and I think that the United States was too, but anyway consist -- that -- that Colorado was and the Court held there that Colorado was not an indispensable party because no relief was asked against Colorado and there were no allegations that Colorado had done anything to the detriment of Nebraska.

And the United States after it came in set up that it owned the water rights by reason of owning the project facilities that were constructed pursuant to the reclamation project in Wyoming.

And this Court held that they didn't own the water rights and that the allocation of the rights in the river to the several States in nowise interfered with any rights of the United States because the United States didn't own the water.

The water was appurtenant to the land under Section 8 of the Reclamation Act.

Now, in the case that we got here, the United States doesn't own the water.

They're just operating the project facilities and that's what they intend to do.

Incidentally, there's a supplemental contract which isn't in the record other than it appears in the last pleading filed by the defendants in this case, it shows that there is an agreement there that the United States is not going to operate El Vado anyway, except as a temporary and expedient matter in making the pass.

That is -- appears at page 36 and 37 of the exceptions to the report of the special master in brief and support thereof, Article IV -- Article XIII (a) have said basic contracts should be revised to read as follows, “Effective February the 1st, 1955, the United States shall assume the operation and maintenance of the district works with the exception of El Vado Dam and Reservoir."

Now, that -- that's not in the record and hadn't developed on the hearing but -- but from this last document which is filed by the defendants here, we see that as a result of the negotiations indicting back and forth between the Bureau of Reclamation and the District, the Bureau of Reclamation is living El Vado Dam and Reservoir out of it.

Now, paragraph (5) is merely to permit them to make certain temporary affairs on the dam, as required to permit the rehabilitation and betterment of the works to proceed without undue interruption.

During the period of operation and maintenance by the United States that's provided in Article IV, there's a mandatory contract and Article IV says that they're not to operate El -- El Vado Reservoir.

The project water including water for Indian lands now served by the district facilities set forth in Article XXXIV of the basic contract and available from El Vado Dam and Reservoir shall be release by the District in accordance with such instructions received in the contracting officer.

Now, as -- in my concluding remarks, I'd like to say that as a matter of equity here the granting of the relief --

Hugo L. Black:

May I ask you a question --

Eugene T. Edwards:

Yes, sir.