47 Cal.2d 681, 6489, Madera Irr. Dist. v. All Persons

Docket Nº:6489
Citation:47 Cal.2d 681, 306 P.2d 886
Opinion Judge:[13] Shenk
Party Name:Madera Irr. Dist. v. All Persons
Attorney:[7] David E. Peckinpah, Denver C. Peckinpah, Harold M. Child and L. N. Barber for Plaintiff and Appellant. [8] Edmund G. Brown, Attorney General, B. Abbott Goldberg and Adolphus Moscovitz, Deputy Attorneys General, Henry Holsinger, Principal Attorney, Division of Water Resources, and Gavin M. Cra...
Case Date:January 24, 1957
Court:Supreme Court of California

Page 681

47 Cal.2d 681

306 P.2d 886

MADERA IRRIGATION DISTRICT, Plaintiff and Appellant,


ALL PERSONS, etc., Defendants

JOHN HUMPHREYS et al., Respondents

THE PEOPLE et al., Defendants and Appellants.

Sac. No. 6489.

Supreme Court of California,

Jan. 24, 1957

Page 682

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 683

APPEALS from a judgment of the Superior Court of Madera County. Benjamin C. Jones, Judge.[*]


David E. Peckinpah, Denver C. Peckinpah, Harold M. Child and L. N. Barber for Plaintiff and Appellant.

Edmund G. Brown, Attorney General, B. Abbott Goldberg and Adolphus Moscovitz, Deputy Attorneys General, Henry Holsinger, Principal Attorney, Division of Water Resources, and Gavin M. Craig, Senior Attorney, for Defendants and Appellants.

Roy A. Gustafson, District Attorney (Ventura), James E. Dixon, Deputy District Attorney, J. Lee Rankin, Solicitor General of the United States, Perry W. Morton, Assistant Attorney General, David R. Warner and Roger P. Marquis, Attorneys, Department of Justice, [†] as Amici Curiae on behalf of Appellants.

Page 684

Harry W. Horton, Horton &amp Knox, Denslow Green, Green, Green &amp Plumley, Chester R. Andrews, Mason A. Bailey, Coffee &amp Wolfe, Dowell &amp Thompson, Sherwood Green and Green, Green &amp Bartow for Respondents.

Brobeck, Phleger &amp Harrison, Herman Phleger, Alvin J. Rockwell and John M. Naff, Jr., as Amici Curiae on behalf of Respondents.



This is an appeal by the plaintiff Madera Irrigation District and certain of the defendants from a judgment refusing to confirm a proposed contract between the United States, acting by and through the Bureau of Reclamation of the Department of the Interior, and the plaintiff district. The contract is substantially the same as that considered in the companion case of Ivanhoe Irr. Dist. v. All Parties, ante, p. 597 , this day decided. Except as to certain matters hereinafter referred to the issues are also the same as in that case.

As in the Ivanhoe contract the United States undertook to deliver water for irrigation purposes from the Central Valley Project to the district and to expend funds for the construction of a distribution system within the district. This proceeding, also an in rem special proceeding to obtain the confirmation of the proposed contract, was brought by the district pursuant to the provisions of sections 22670 et seq. and section 23225 of the Water Code. The federal law (Omnibus Adjustment Act of 1926, section 46, 44 Stats. 649, 650, 43 U.S.C. section 423e, Federal Reclamation Laws Ann. 318-319) and article 36 of the contract require the validity or invalidity thereof to be determined by a court of competent jurisdiction. The contract in question was entered into on May 14, 1951, by the district acting under the Irrigation District Federal Cooperation Law. (Wat. Code, sections 23175 et seq.) On the 26th of March, 1951, the California Districts Securities Commission, with reservations, approved the contract (Wat. Code, sections 23222, 24253), and the electors of the district subsequently approved it by a vote of 1979 to 755 (Wat. Code, sections 23220, 23221, 21925-21935). The district commenced this proceeding on the 21st day of May, 1951. Eighty-six landowners within the district, and four landowners outside of the district filed answers in which they opposed the confirmation of the contract. The State of California and the Water Project Authority of the State of California, by and through the attorney general, filed a joint

Page 685

answer. The state prayed that the contract be validated and a separate prayer recited that the Water Project Authority "is not taking any position upon the validity of the contract" and requested the court to declare that its decree "does not purport to be an adjudication of the right or interest of the State of California or its agencies ... or of the right or interest of the United States or its agencies ... in or to the water or water rights ... involved in the Central Valley Project."

After the statutory time for filing an answer had expired, leave of the court was granted the State Engineer of the State of California, acting in his capacity as such and ex-officio as Chief of the Division of Water Resources, Department of Public Works, to file a separate answer by counsel for the Division of Water Resources. The State Engineer took no position as to the validity of the contract, stating that his object was to protect the state law relating to water use and control. Regional counsel for the Bureau of Reclamation of the Department of the Interior were granted leave by the court to appear as amici curiae and as such participated throughout the proceedings in the trial court in support of the confirmation of the contract.

Judgment was ordered in favor of the objecting defendants and the court specifically directed that findings of fact and conclusions of law be prepared in accordance with the views of the same court in the Ivanhoe case. However, additional findings and conclusions hereinafter referred to were made on issues not involved in the Ivanhoe case. The judgment included injunctive provisions similar to those in the Ivanhoe case except that it expressly provided that "The delivery of water by the United States to the plaintiff District at charges not to exceed $3.50 per acre foot for Class 1 water and $1.50 per acre foot for Class 2 water, and the collection of funds therefor, and the payment for the costs thereof by plaintiff district to the United States is not enjoined."

The appellants are the State of California represented by the attorney general who seeks a reversal of the judgment, the plaintiff district which seeks a reversal, and the State Engineer as Chief of the Division of Water Resources of the Department of Public Works who asserts the invalidity of the contract but contends that the trial court erred in a determination that a right to the use of water is acquired by duly filing an application to appropriate water without perfecting it. The respondents, who seek an affirmance of the

Page 686

judgment, are supported by the Di Giorgio Fruit Corporation as amicus curiae. The Ventura County Flood Control District has appeared as amicus curiae in support of the appellants and seeks to establish that the trial court's determination that water rights involved have become appurtenant to the lands upon which water is being or is to be used is not in accordance with existing law.

The Madera Irrigation District is located in Madera County. It now has an area of approximately 112,000 acres, of which about 85,000 acres have been developed for irrigation. Before project water became available 90 per cent of the acreage irrigated was supplied with water pumped from an underground water supply. During the 25-year period from 1922 through 1946 the demand on that supply exceeded the natural supply by an average of 27,200 acre feet annually and resulted in a net lowering of the water table by 21.7 feet. The need of a supplemental supply of water was thus apparent. Shortly after its organization the district in 1920 developed preliminary plans for the construction of a storage dam on the San Joaquin River near Friant and a canal to deliver water stored therein to lands within the district. It acquired a suitable dam site and gravel needed in the construction. It filed applications with the Division of Water Resources to appropriate unappropriated water of the San Joaquin River. Plans for construction of the dam were never completed by the district apparently because litigation between Miller and Lux and the Madera Irrigation District established that there was insufficient unappropriated water in the San Joaquin River to sustain the proposed project.

In May, 1939, the district entered into a contract with the United States whereby it transferred its dam site, gravel lands and applications to the United States for use in connection with the Central Valley Project. In exchange the district received $300,000 and a permanent priority right to contract for an annual supply of water from the project. Part A of the contract now under consideration is in partial recognition of that right.

The contract in Part A provides for a designated water supply for the district from the Friant Dam and the Madera Canal for a period of 40 years, commencing with the year in which the initial delivery date occurs. The United States agrees to furnish to the district, and the district agrees to accept and pay for the water supplied at rates whose maximum limits are fixed by the contract. Part B of the contract

Page 687

provides that, to the extent that funds may be available by appropriation, the United States will construct a distribution system to cost not exceeding $8,320,000. The system will be constructed so as to provide facilities for the delivery of water from the Madera Canal to each unit of irrigable land within the district, each unit in no event to comprise more than 160 acres of land. The district agrees to convey to the United States without cost the unencumbered fee simple title to any land owned by the district, or perpetual easements therein, required for right of way purposes for the distribution system. Title to all the project works, including the distribution system, is to be and remain in the name of the United States until otherwise provided for by the Congress, notwithstanding the transfer of any such works to the district for operation and maintenance. The district must repay to the United States the actual cost of the distribution system. The obligation is to be paid in 40 successive, equal annual installments, the first of which shall become due in the year following a two-year development period after the year in which the system shall become...

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