Federal Power Commission v. State of Oregon

Decision Date06 June 1955
Docket NumberNo. 367,367
PartiesFEDERAL POWER COMMISSION, Petitioner, v. The STATE OF OREGON, The Fish Commission of Oregon, The Oregon State GameCommission
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

[Syllabus from pages 435-437 intentionally omitted] Mr. Willard W. Gatchell, Washington, D.C., for petitioner.

Mr. Arthur G. Higgs, Portland, Or., for respondent.

Mr. Rollin E. Bowles, Portland, Or., for the Oregon Division of the Izaak Walton League of America, as amicus curiae.

Mr. Justice BURTON delivered the opinion of the Court.

As in First Iowa Hydro-Electric Coop. v. Federal Power Commission, 328 U.S. 152, 66 S.Ct. 906, 90 L.Ed. 1143, this case illustrates the integration of the federal and state jurisdictions in licensing water power projects under the Federal Power Act.1 In the First Iowa case we sustained the authority of the Commission to license a power project to use navigable waters of the United States located in Iowa. Here, without finding that the waters are navigable, the Commission has issued a comparable license for a power project to use waters on lands constituting reservations of the United States located in Oregon. The State of Oregon questions the authority of the Commission to do this and the adequacy of the provisions approved by the Commission for the conservation of anadromous fish.2 For the reasons hereafter stated, we sustain the Commission.

In 1949, the Northwest Power Supply Company of Portland, Oregon, applied to the Federal Power Commission for a license to construct, operate and maintain a hydroelectric plant, constituting Pelton Project No. 2030 on reserved lands of the United States on the Deschutes River in Oregon,3 and, in 1951, the Portland General Electric Company of Portland, Oregon, succeeded to a supplementary application for that license.

The Pelton Project is designed to include a concrete dam 205 feet high and a powerhouse containing three 36,000-kilowatt generators. It is to be built across the Deschutes River on reserved lands of the United States located below the junction of its Metolius and Crooked River tributaries.4 The western terminus of the dam is to occupy lands, within the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, which have been reserved by the United States for power purposes since 1910 and 1913.5 The eastern terminus of the dam is to be on lands of the United States which, at least since 1909, have been withdrawn from entry under the public land laws and reserved for power purposes.6 The project calls for no permanent diversion of water as the entire flow of the river will run through or over the dam into the natural bed of the stream. This dam will make available the head and volume of water required for the project and the water impounded by it will create a narrow reservoir, submerging lands the title to which is or will be in the United States. Variations and interruptions in the flow of the stream, caused by temporary storage or use of water for power purposes, are to be controlled by a 'reregulating dam' approved by the Commission and located on private property, to be acquired, about three miles below the power dam. No objection is made to the reregulating dam. To the extent that access to existing spawning grounds for anadromous fish is cut off by the power dam, other facilities on private property, to be acquired, are to be constructed and maintained on terms approved by the Commission and designed to develop an equal or greater fish population. Opportunities for recreational uses of the area are to be enhanced and no issue as to water pollution is before us.

The State of Oregon, the Fish Commission of Oregon, the Oregon State Game Commission and the Oregon Division of the Izaak Walton League intervened before the Commission and each filed objections to the granting of the license. Some of their objections related to the authority of the Commission to grant the license and others to the suitability of the proposed fish conservation facilities.

Following extended hearings, the Commission's presiding examiner recommended the license. After exceptions to that recommendation the Commission issued its opinion and an order granting the license. 10 F.P.C. 445, 450, 92 P.U.R. (N.S.) 247. The Commission found that a public need exists for the early completion of the project to meet a severe power shortage in the Pacific Northwest. It found also that the project is in the public interest, will provide for comprehensive development of the affected stretch of the Deschutes River, and will be consistent with further comprehensive development of that stream and of the Columbia Basin. It held that the improvements will contribute valuable public benefits which will not be available if the river is maintained in its present natural condition.7 The Commission stated that the project will be subject to all existing rights to the use of the waters of the river, whether perfected or not. It prescribed temporary measures to be taken to meet the needs of the anadromous fish during the construction of the project and approved certain permanent facilities, practices and expenditures in relation to such fish. The opinion stated 'that no substantial evidence has been brought forward to show that the facilities proposed for conserving the fish will not maintain existing runs. Moreover, there are indications that the runs can be increaed.' 10 F.P.C., at 450, 92 P.U.R. (N.S.), at 252.

A rehearing being denied, the State and its agencies sought a review by the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and the Portland General Electric Company intervened. That court, with one judge dissenting, set aside the Commission's order. 211 F.2d 347. It recognized the necessity of a license from the Federal Power Commission but held that Congress, by its public lands legislation, long ago had transferred to the State of Oregon such control over the use of nonnavigable waters that the sponsor of the Pelton Project must secure also the permission prescribed by the State. We granted certiorari because of the public significance of the issues but denied leave to the Portland General Electric Company to intervene here. 348 U.S. 868, 75 S.Ct. 112. 28 U.S.C. § 1254(1); 49 Stat. 860—861, 16 U.S.C. § 825l(b), 16 U.S.C.A. § 825l(b). Several States filed briefs as amici curiae, usually adopting as their own the brief filed by respondents.

We divide our consideration of the issues into three parts.

I. Applicability of The Federal Power Act

On its face, the Federal Power Act applies to this license as specifically as it did to the license in the First Iowa case. There the jurisdiction of the Commission turned almost entirely upon the navigability of the waters of the United States to which the license applied. Here the jurisdiction turns upon the ownership or control by the United States of the reserved lands on which the licensed project is to be located.8 The authority to issue licenses in relation to navigable waters of the United States springs from the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. The authority to do so in relation to public lands and reservations of the United States springs from the Property Clause—'The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States * * *.' Art. IV, § 3.9

In the instant case the project is to occupy lands which come within the term 'reservations,' as distinguished from 'public lands.' In the Federal Power Act, each has its established meaning. 'Public lands' are lands subject to private appropriation and disposal under public land laws. 'Reservations' are not so subject.10 The title to the lands upon which the eastern terminus of the dam is to rest has been in the United States since the cession by Great Britain of the area now comprising the State of Oregon. Even if formerly they may have been open to private appropriation as 'public lands,' they were withdrawn from such availability before any vested interests conflicting with the Pelton Project were acquired.11 Title to the bed of the Deschutes River is also in the United States.12 Since the Indian Treaty of 1855, the lands within the Indian reservation, upon which the western end of the dam will rest, have been reserved for the use of the Indians. More recently they were reserved for power purposes13 and the Indians have given their consent to the project before us. Accordingly, there is no issue here as to whether or not the title to the tribal lands is in the United States.14

There thus remains no question as to the constitutional and statutory authority of the Federal Power Commission to grant a valid license for a power project on reserved lands of the United States, provided that, as required by the Act, the use of the water does not conflict with vested rights of others. 15 To allow Oregon to veto such use, by requiring the State's additional permission, would result in the very duplication of regulatory control precluded by the First Iowa decision. 328 U.S. 152, 177 179, 66 S.Ct. 906, 918. No such duplication of authority is called for by the Act.16 The Court of Appeals in the instant case agrees. 211 F.2d at page 351. And see State of Washington Department of Game v. Federal Power Commission, 9 Cir., 207 F.2d 391, 395—396. Authorization of this project, therefore, is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal Power Commission, unless that jurisdiction is modified by other federal legislation. See United States v. Rio Grande Dam & Irrigation Co., 174 U.S. 690, 703, 19 S.Ct. 770, 775, 43 L.Ed. 1136; Gutierres v. Albuquerque Land & Irrigation Co., 188 U.S. 545, 554, 23 S.Ct. 338, 341, 47 L.Ed. 588.

II. Inapplicability of the Desert Land Act of 1877 and Related Acts

The State of Oregon argues that the Acts of July 26, 1866,17 July 9, 1870, 18 and the Desert Land Act of 187719 constitute an express congressional delegation or conveyance to the State of the...

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