Salt Lake City v. Utah Lake Farmers Ass'n

Decision Date01 August 1955
Docket NumberNo. 8078,8078
Citation4 Utah 2d 14,286 P.2d 773
Partiesd 14 SALT LAKE CITY, a municipal corporation of the State of Utah, et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. UTAH LAKE FARMERS ASSOCIATION, an unincorporated association, et al., Defendants and Respondents.
CourtUtah Supreme Court

Ray, Rawlins, Jones & Henderson, Salt Lake City, for appellant.

Clair M. Aldrich, and Christenson & Christenson, Provo, for respondent.

WADE, Justice.

This is an interlocutory appeal to determine unsettled procedural and some substantive problems in a class suit between the Jordan River water users and owners of lands adjoining Utah Lake.

Salt Lake Valley, containing the Great Salt Lake, is abutted on the south by another slightly higher valley, which except for its outlet to the north is completely surrounded by mountain ranges and in the low lands of that valley lies Utah Lake. The waters from the surrounding mountains drain into the lake; the Provo and Spanish Fork rivers from the mountains to the east are the largest contributing streams. The Jordan River, the only outlet of this fresh water lake, courses from the north corner of the lake northward through a narrow neck of land between two mountain ranges called the Jordan Narrows, through which the river has cut a deep narrow channel. Beyond this channel the river flows to the north into the wide Salt Lake Valley and eventually empties into the Great Salt Lake.

Utah Lake covers about 150 square miles, it has three corners, the west shore line meanders back and forth from the north to the south corner and west of that shore line the mountains end somewhat abruptly. On the east side the shore line runs from the north corner toward the southeast, and from the south corner to the northeast, meeting and forming a corner about halfway between the north and south corners of the lake. Around the north, east and south sides of the lake there lies a wide strip of even ground between the lake shores and the mountains which in places slopes very gradually to the water's edge so that a slight rise in the lake water's elevation floods a lot of land. Provo City and many smaller cities and towns occupy this strip, along with many large and small industrial plants, recreation centers and many valuable and intensely cultivated farms.

The elevation of the lake water is each year much higher at the peak of the spring runoff than at its lowest ebb and there is a great fluctuation in the lake water's elevation from year to year. The demand for the use of the Jordan River waters is greater than the supply, which could be greatly increased by obstructing the flow of the river at its highest point as it flows to the north through the deep narrow channel and storing the high runoff waters in the lake and thereby flooding the surrounding lands. From the early settlements there have been disputes between the water users and the landowners and in 1885 Compromise Agreement was entered into to settle such disputes. It established the right of the water users to store water in the lake up to what is known as Compromise Point or Compromise Elevation for which the water users paid the landowners and the Utah Lake and Jordan Dam Commission was created as the agents of both parties to regulate such storage under specified rules. The agreement authorized each side to choose two commissioners and such four commissioners were authorized to choose a disinterested person to be the fifth commissioner. Under this agreement and the clarifying decision of Salt Lake City v. Colladge, 1 two monuments were established to mark the elevation of Compromise Point on the lake shore, one near the head of the Jordan River and the other on Snail Island near the eastern shore line of the lake and north of the mouth of the Provo River and the water users were required to maintain these monuments permanently in their respective positions.

By their complaint the plaintiffs, the water users, and appellants here, allege that both of these monuments have been unavoidably dislocated causing a dispute over the elevation of Compromise Point, that such elevation is 4,515.799 feet above sea level, Salt Lake City, datum, that the defendants other than Provo City will fairly insure the adequate representation of all members of the class of persons interested in this litigation and they pray that the court re-establish the elevation of Compromise Point in accordance with Compromise Agreement and the Colladge decision. The defendants all agree that the monument on Snail Island has been dislocated and that there is a dispute as to the elevation of Compromise Point. Provo City and the other defendants filed separate answers and counterclaims. Each answer contained several defenses and alleged that Compromise Point was and still is four feet below the top of the monument near the head of the Jordan River, which they allege is 'more than six and one-half inches' below 4,515.799 feet above sea level, Salt Lake City, datum. In its counterclaim Provo City claims $200,000 damages from wrongful flooding of its lands, and the other defendants, for themselves and others similarly situated, claim $750,000 damages. The other defendants further allege that until various elements of the rights and liabilities of the parties are determined it is impracticable to plead specific individual claims but that the court should retain jurisdiction to adjudicate such claims in this action after such rights and liabilities are determined. The plaintiffs moved to strike certain paragraphs and defenses and to dismiss the counterclaims. The court denied these motions. Plaintiffs then filed separate replies and defenses to defendants counterclaims, and defendants moved to strike parts of the replies and some of the defenses. Parts of such motions were granted. Whereupon plaintiffs instituted this appeal and defendants cross-appealed.

This case raises the following questions: 1. Do the defendants' counterclaims state claims on which relief can be granted? 2. Did the court err in striking from plaintiffs' reply their third and fourth defenses to the counterclaims? 3. Are the claims alleged in defendants' counterclaims subject to determination and adjudication in this action? 4. How will the judgment in this case affect the rights of persons alleged to belong to the same class as defendants but who are not parties to this action?

1. Each counterclaim states a claim on which relief can be granted. The following is a brief outline of the allegations of the counterclaims: Defendants allege that plaintiffs claim the right to and are storing foreign waters in Utah Lake, consisting of waters brought from other water sheds, waters developed from new reclamation projects, and waters from new wells and that plaintiffs claim the right to and are storing waters to supply new water rights initiated after Compromise Agreement and the Colladge decision. That plaintiffs allowed the monument established on Snail Island to mark compromise elevation to be dislocated and erroneously made the claim that the monument at the head of the Jordan River, on which all other marks of Compromise Point were originally based, had been dislocated and claimed that Compromise Point is 'more than six and one-half inches' higher than the elevation originally agreed upon, that accordingly plaintiffs have raised, or induced the water commissioner to raise, other gauge marks which had been used to mark Compromise Elevation and have induced the water commissioner to assume in regulating the height of the water of Utah Lake that such raised marks indicate Compromise Elevation. That in past years and up to August 22, 1952, plaintiffs have maintained obstructions in their Jordan River dam without the openings required by Compromise Agreement even when the water was far above Compromise Point and at a time when there was and it was anticipated that there would continue to be unprecedented runoff of water into the Lake, and that plaintiffs have adopted the natural channel of the Jordan River as their private channel to carry their irrigation waters but have failed to keep it free from obstructions and landslides. They further allege that these claims, conditions and events have been and are contrary to the terms of, and what was contemplated by the makers of Compromise Agreement and have caused the waters of Utah Lake to be raised and held much higher than was authorized under that agreement and the Colladge decision, thereby causing defendants great and irreparable damage. They pray for damages, a determination of their rights and for injunctive relief.

Plaintiffs contend that if the terms and provisions of Compromise Agreement and the Colladge decision have been violated as alleged in the counterclaims they are not responsible nor liable therefor because they do not have control of the amount of water stored in the Lake nor of the amount of water allowed to flow past the Jordan River dam and through its channel. They contend that Compromise Agreement and the Colladge decision establish that the Utah Lake and Jordan Dam Commission act as the agent of both sides of this controversy in regulating the storage of water in the Lake and that the water commissioner appointed by the State Engineer is by law required to regulate the amount of water allowed to flow through the Jordan River dam and channel. 2 They further contend that the records of this court and the district court, of which we should take judicial notice, show that the changes made in the river bed at the dam and through its channel were made under court supervision. Those records further show that the defendants were not parties to, nor were their rights adjudicated in the actions under which such supervision was exercised. Plaintiffs also contend that wa should take judicial notice that the channel of the Jordan River has been lowered since Compromise Agreement was made and that the lake water has been further lowered by pumping large...

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6 cases
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    • United States
    • Wyoming Supreme Court
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    ... ... Woolley, 64 Utah 183, 228 P. 906; 13 Am.Jur. Corporations § 998, ... Tenney v. City of Miami Beach, 152 Fla. 126, 11 So.2d 188; ... Salt Lake City v. Utah Lake Farmers Association, 4 ... ...
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