278 U.S. 367 (2024), Wisconsin v. Illinois

Citation:278 U.S. 367, 49 S.Ct. 163, 73 L.Ed. 426
Party Name:Wisconsin v. Illinois
Case Date:January 14, 1929
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 367

278 U.S. 367 (2024)

49 S.Ct. 163, 73 L.Ed. 426




United States Supreme Court

Jan. 14, 1929

1. A suit between states bordering on the Great Lakes, in which the plaintiffs sought to enjoin the defendant state and its administrative agency from diverting the lake water through a sanitary canal into another watershed under a permit from the Secretary of War, alleging tat the diversion, by lowering the level of the lakes and waters connecting them, inflicted great damage upon public and private riparian property in the plaintiff states and to their waterborne commerce; that it was contrary to legislation of Congress, and, if permitted thereby, was unconstitutional in that it exceeded the power of Congress to regulate commerce, preferred the ports of one state over those of other states, deprived the plaintiffs and their citizens of property without due process of law, and invaded the sovereign rights of the plaintiffs as members of the Union, held a case within the original jurisdiction of this Court. P. 409.

2. Under § 10 of the Act of 1899, 26 Stat. 455, obstructions to the navigable capacity of the waters of the United States are prohibited if not affirmatively authorized by Congress, but obstructions of the kinds specified in the second and third clauses of the section are so authorized when approved by the Chief of Engineers and the Secretary of War, without further action by Congress. P. 411.

3. The authority thus conferred on executive officers is not an unconstitutional delegation as applied to determining the amount of water that may be diverted from a lake without impairing navigability. P. 414.

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4. Authority for diverting water from Lake Michigan through the Chicago Sanitary Canal is not to be found in such action as Congress has taken relative to a proposed waterway between that lake and the State of Illinois and Mississippi Rivers, nor in its appropriations for widening and deepening the Chicago River. P. 416.

5. The Sanitary District of Chicago, an agency of the Illinois, operating a canal partly in the Chicago River and connected with streams leading to the Mississippi River through which the great volumes of sewage emanating from Chicago and its environs are carried to the Mississippi watershed by means of water abstracted from Lake Michigan, having been enjoined from diverting such water in excess of the amounts allowed by an existing permit from the Secretary of War or any that might be issued by him according to law (Sanitary District v. United States, 266 U.S. 405), applied for and received from the Secretary a new permit, under the Act of March 3, 1899. The new permit was temporary and revocable and subject to the condition, among others, that a specified measure of diligence be displayed by the District in providing other means of sewage disposal which, in course of time, would obviate excessive drafts on the lake water for that purpose. In a suit against the Sanitary District and the State of Illinois by other states bordering on the Great Lakes and connecting waters, in which it appeared that the continued diversions at Chicago had lowered the water level to the damage of the plaintiffs and their citizens, held:

(1) Under the limited authority conferred upon him by the Act of March 3, 1899, the Secretary of War could not permit the continued withdrawal of lake water merely to aid the Sanitary District in disposing of sewage. P. 417.

(2) Support for the permit rests upon the need of preserving the navigability of the Port of Chicago, which would become unusable if the sewage were to accumulate pending provision of means other than the waterway for disposing of it, and upon maintaining navigation in the Chicago River, a part of that Port, for which a comparatively insignificant water flow may be required. P. 418.

(3) Save what may be needed for the Chicago River, the plaintiffs are entitled to have the diversions stopped by injunction, the decree, however, to be so framed as to accord a reasonable time within which the Sanitary District may provide other means of sewage disposal, reducing the diversion as the new means become operative from time to time, until the sewage shall be entirely

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disposed of thereby, whereupon the injunction shall become final and complete. Pp. 418-420.

(4) The cause should be referred to the master to take testimony on the practical measures needed and the time required for their completion, and to report his conclusions for the formulation of such a decree. P. 421.

(5) states bordering on the Mississippi River and seeking as interveners to maintain the diversions in question because of their alleged beneficial effect upon the navigability of that stream held to have no rightful interests in the matter. P. 420.

The first of these bills, filed July 14, 1922, by the State of Wisconsin, was amended October 5, 1925, the States of Minnesota, Ohio, and Pennsylvania becoming co-plaintiffs. The amended bill sought an injunction restraining the State of Illinois and the Sanitary District of Chicago from causing any water to be taken from Lake Michigan in such manner as permanently to divert the same from the lake. There was a further prayer that, if the Sanitary and Ship Canal should be used as a navigable waterway of the United States and be subject to the same control on the part of the United States as other navigable waterways, the defendants should be restrained from permanently diverting any water from Lake Michigan in excess of the amount which the Court should determine to be reasonably required for navigation in and through said Canal and the connecting waters to the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers, without injury to the navigable capacity of the Great Lakes and their connecting waters. It was also prayed that the defendants be restrained from dumping or draining into the canal any sewage or waste in such quantity and manner as excessively to pollute and render the canal, the Chicago, Des Plaines, and Illinois Rivers, unsanitary and injurious to the people of the plaintiff states navigating said waterways.

To the amended bill, the State of Illinois filed a demurrer and the Sanitary District filed its answer, which included

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a motion to dismiss. The States of Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Louisiana, by leave of Court, became intervening codefendants and moved to dismiss the bill. The demurrer was overruled and the motions to dismiss were denied without prejudice. 270 U.S. 634. The intervening defendants and the State of Illinois filed their respective answers. The States of Mississippi and Arkansas were permitted to intervene as defendants, and adopted the answers filed by the other interveners.

The State of Michigan, on March 8, 1926, filed its bill in this Court against the State of Illinois and the Sanitary District for the same relief, and the defendants filed their answers on June 1, 1926.

On October 18, 1926, the State of New York filed its bill in this Court against the State of Illinois and the Sanitary District for the same, and, on April 18, 1927, it was ordered that the answer filed by the defendants in the Michigan suit should be accepted and treated as their answer to the bill of New York, other than the third paragraph. 274 U.S. 712. On May 31, 1927, this paragraph was stricken out, without prejudice. 274 U.S. 488.

On June 7, 1926, the first cause was referred to Charles E. Hughes, Esq., as Special Master, to take the evidence and report the same to this Court with his findings of fact, conclusions of law, and recommendations for a decree, the parties in the Michigan case being granted leave to participate. 172 U.S. 650. Similar leave was granted on November 23, 1926, to the parties in the New York case. 273 U.S. 642.

After hearings, the master made his report, in which he concluded:

(1) That a justiciable controversy was presented; (2) that Illinois and the Sanitary District had no authority to make or continue the diversion in question without the consent of the United States; (3) that Congress had

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power to regulate the diversion -- i.e., to determine whether and to what extent it should be permitted; (4) that Congress had not directly authorized it; (5) that Congress, by the Act of March 3, 1899, had conferred authority upon the Secretary of War to regulate the diversion provided he act not arbitrarily, but in reasonable relation to the purpose of his delegated authority; (6) that the permit of March 3, 1925 (described in the opinion of the Court) was valid and effective according to its terms, the entire control of the diversion remaining with Congress. He recommended, therefore, that the bill be dismissed without prejudice to the rights of the plaintiffs to institute suit to prevent a diversion of water from Lake Michigan in case such diversion were made or attempted without authority of law.

The case came before the Court upon exceptions taken by the plaintiffs to the master's report.

TAFT, J., lead opinion

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE TAFT delivered the opinion of the Court.

These are amended bills by the States of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York, praying for an injunction against the State of Illinois and the Sanitary District of Chicago from continuing to withdraw 8,500 cubic feet of water a second from Lake Michigan at Chicago.

The court referred the cause to Charles Evans Hughes as a special master, with authority to take the evidence, and to report the same to the court with his findings of fact, conclusions of law, and recommendations for a decree, all to be subject to approval or other disposal by the Court. The master gave full hearings and filed and submitted his report November 23, 1927, to which the complainants duly lodged exceptions, which have been elaborately argued.

When these bills were filed, there was pending in this Court an appeal by the Sanitary District of...

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