Hurley v. Kincaid, 457

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Citation76 L.Ed. 637,52 S.Ct. 267,285 U.S. 95
Docket NumberNo. 457,457
PartiesHURLEY, Secretary of War, et al. v. KINCAID
Decision Date23 February 1932

285 U.S. 95
52 S.Ct. 267
76 L.Ed. 637
HURLEY, Secretary of War, et al.



No. 457
Argued Jan. 4, 5, 1932.
Decided Feb. 23, 1932.

[Syllabus intentionally omitted]

Page 96

The Attorney General and Mr. Thomas D. Thacher, Sol. Gen., of Washington, D. C., for petitioners.

[Argument of Counsel from page 96-97 intentionally omitted]

Page 97

Messrs. H. H. Russell and William C. Dufour, both of Monroe, La., for respondent.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 97-99 intentionally omitted]

Page 99

Mr. Justice BRANDEIS delivered the opinion of the Court.

On June 15, 1929, Kincaid brought this suit in the federal court for Western Louisiana against the United States, the Secretary of War, the Chief of Engineers, the Mississippi River Commission and its members, to enjoin the carrying out of any work in the Boeuf floodway under the Mississippi River Flood Control Act, May 15, 1928, c. 569, 45 Stat. 534 (33 USCA § 702a et seq.), and specifically to enjoin the receiving of bids and awarding of contracts for the construction of certain guide levees bounding the floodway.

The Mississippi River Flood Control Act adopted the Jadwin Plan for protection against floods. The act provides for raising the levees generally 3 feet; for improving the carrying capacity of the main channel of the river by revetment work; and for limiting the flood waters in this channel to its safe capacity through the provision of specified diversion channels. Among these is the Boeuf floodway, which will carry excess flood waters from a point below the mouth of the Arkansas through the Boeuf basin west of the Mississippi into the backwater area at the mouth of the Red river. Such diversion has taken place to some extent in the past, when flood waters have passed over, or through crevasses in, the 20-mile section of the levee at the head of the basin, known as the Cypress Creek levee. Before

Page 100

this section was completed, in 1921, the Boeuf basin and the parallel Tensas basin, lying between it and the main channel, served as natural overflow areas of the Mississippi in flood periods. The plan leaves the Cypress Creek section at its present height. But, as the levees elsewhere are to be raised 3 feet and materially strengthened, preventing overflow at other points, the volume of water passing into the diversion channel may be greatly increased. Moreover, guide, or protection, levees running in a southerly direction are to be built on either side of the floodway, which will direct the waters into a specified channel of a width varying from ten to 20 miles; and new levees are to be constructed which will cause this floodway to carry waters formerly overflowing into the Tensas basin. The maximum previous flow of water into the Boeuf basin occurred in 1927, and is estimated at 450,000 cubic feet per second. Under the new plan, the flow may reach 1,250,000 feet per second in times of extraordinary flood. The War Department advertised for bids for the construction of guide levees for the Boeuf floodway, to be received June 17, 1929. To complete the project will probably require ten years.

Kincaid owns a 160-acre farm in the Boeuf basin at a point 125 miles below the point of diversion. No part of the guide levees is to be built on his land; but the land lies within the proposed channel of the floodway. He alleges that the project will expose his property to additional destructive floods, and thus subject it to a new servitude; that the mere 'setting apart (of) this property as a flood way and diversion channel and * * * advertising for and receiving bids for * * * construction of the guide levees' casts a cloud upon his title; 1 and that the government is proposing to com-

Page 101

mence the work without having instituted condemnation proceedings. He charges that the acts of the defendants in advertising for bids for the construction of the guide levees, to be followed by the letting of contracts, without having taken proceedings to condemn his land, 'will mean the taking by the United States Government of complainant's lands and properties without due process of law and without just compensation.'

All the defendants moved to dismiss the bill on the grounds, among others, that the United States had not consented to be sued, and that the bill disclosed no ground for equitable relief. The District Court held that the United States could not to made a party, since it had not consented to be sued; but overruled the motion to dismiss the suit on the ground that the United States was not an indispensable party; that section 4 of the act (33 USCA § 702d) declares that 'the United States shall provide flowage rights for additional destructive flood waters that will

Page 102

pass by reason of diversions from the main channel of the Mississippi River';2 that, on the allegations of the bill, the creation of the Boeuf floodway would subject Kincaid's land to additional destructive flood waters; that the act required the government to condemn, or otherwise to acquire flowage rights over, the property before proceeding with the flood control project in the Boeuf basin; and that, by starting work before acquiring such rights, the defendants were proceeding in violation of both the act and the Constitution. 35 F.(2d) 235.

Thereupon an answer was filed and the case was heard on evidence on final hearing. The defendants showed


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