Stoney Creek Orchards v. State of California

Decision Date09 November 1970
Citation12 Cal.App.3d 903,91 Cal.Rptr. 139
PartiesSTONEY CREEK ORCHARDS, a corporation, Ben N. Nielsen, Ingrid Nielsen, Golden Nugget Ranch, Inc., Victor Trubowitch and Simone Trubowitch, Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. STATE of California, Defendant and Respondent. Civ. 12267.
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals

Watt & Leverenz, Chico, for appellants.

Thomas C. Lynch, Atty. Gen., Lloyd Hinkelman, Deputy Atty. Gen., Sacramento, for respondent.

JANES, Associate Justice.

Plaintiffs appeal from a judgment dismissing their complaint in inverse condemnation after the state's general demurrer was sustained without leave to amend.

The complaint alleges that the bank of the Sacramento River on plaintiffs' lands has been and will continue to be eroded 'by the operation of the Central Valley Project' and 'by the change in the natural stream flow caused by the plan, design, construction and operation of Shasta, Keswick, and Black Butte Dams 1 and the use of the Sacramento River as a canal for the transportation of water for the Central Valley Project.' It is also alleged that defendant state 'approved the plan of each unit of the Central Valley Project,' that there has been 'significant State involvement and substantial participation' in the development of that project, and, in particular, that the state 'participated in the planning and development of * * * Shasta, Keswick and Black Butte Dams as units of the Central Valley Project.'

At plaintiffs' request, the trial court took judicial notice of certain documents of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, and of certain bulletins issued by defendant state. On this appeal, plaintiffs' brief cites those materials as showing 'substantial State participation' in the planning and development activities alleged in their complaint. 2 Plaintiffs emphasize also the statement of the California Supreme Court that '(f)or many years the two governments (state and federal) have peacefully and wholeheartedly cooperated in the planning and construction of this huge project. In the very truest sense of the terms it (the Central Valley Project) is and has been a cooperative project.' (Ivanhoe Irr. Dist. v. All Parties (1960) 53 Cal.2d 692, 714, 3 Cal.Rptr. 317, 330, 350 P.2d 69, 82.)

Defendant state, on the other hand, cites the same and additional materials (including numerous cases) as establishing that the Shasta, Keswick and Black Butte Dams 'are the property of the United States Government and were Constructed and are Operated and Maintained by the United States pursuant to Federal law' and that those dams 'are units of the Federal Central Valley Project, which is owned and operated by the Federal Government and beyond the control of the State of California. * * * 3 ' (Emphasis in defendant's brief.)

Except as briefly footnoted, we need not further summarize the materials thus relied on by the parties. "(I)n passing upon the question of the sufficiency or insufficiency of a complaint to state a cause of action, It is wholly beyond the scope of the inquiry to ascertain whether the facts stated are true or untrue. * * *" (Wohlgemuth v. Meyer (1956) 139 Cal.App.2d 326, 332, 293 P.2d 816.) (Emphasis ours.) 'The allegations of the complaint must for the purposes of demurrer be accepted as true unless they are contrary to facts of which a court may take judicial notice.' (Alisal Sanitary Dist. v. Kennedy (1960) 180 Cal.App.2d 69, 73, 4 Cal.Rptr. 379, 382.)

The plain theory of plaintiffs' action is that use of the Sacramento River as a canal and the artifical regimen of its flow attributable to the plan, design, construction, and operation of the Shasta, Keswick and Black Butte Dams substantially contribute to erosion of the river banks on plaintiffs' properties, and that the State of California, having participated in the planning and development of this multi-reservoir system, is answerable in damages for that harm.

No document or case cited by defendant resolves the factual question whether, as alleged, the state substantially participated in the planning and development of the three dams and other units of the Central Valley Project. By alleging substantial state participation in such activity and that plaintiffs' lands have been damaged by that activity, the complaint states a cause of action for inverse condemnation. (See Sheffet v. County of Los Angeles (1970) 3 Cal.App.3d 720, 734--735, 84 Cal.Rptr. 11 (substantial participation: approval of plans and acceptance of streets by defendant county, although private contractor actually planned and constructed the streets; increased burden on plaintiff's ditch was a necessary consequence of tract design and creation and improvement of the streets); Frustuck v. City of Fairfax (1963) 212 Cal.App.2d 345, 362--363, 28 Cal.Rptr. 357 (substantial participation: approval of subdivision maps and drainage system plans; city failed to appreciate probability that drainage system, as conceived and while functioning, would damage plaintiff's property).)

The most that could be said in defendant's behalf, as to the documents submitted and the authorities relied upon, is that they show the federal government was empowered to construct the dams, and that ownership and operation of the Central Valley Project is vested in the United States. The issue posed by the complaint, however, is not whether the state or federal government was statutorily Authorized to act, but whether there was In fact substantial participation by the state. If plaintiffs' alleged losses resulted from planning and development in which there was substantial participation by the state, it is immaterial, on this appeal, which sovereign holds title or has the responsibility for operation of the project. (See Clement v. State Reclamation Board (1950) 35 Cal.2d 628, 645, 220 P.2d 897; Sheffet v. County of Los Angeles, supra, 3 Cal.App.3d at pp. 734--735, 84...

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  • Paterno v. State
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • November 26, 2003
    ...750; Sheffet v. County of Los Angeles (1970) 3 Cal.App.3d 720, 734-735, 84 Cal.Rptr. 11; Stoney Creek Orchards v. State of California (1970) 12 Cal.App.3d 903, 906-907, 91 Cal.Rptr. 139.) Some cases speak of "substantial participation," but the concept is the same: "A public entity is a pro......
  • Arreola v. County of Monterey
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • June 25, 2002
    ...immaterial "which sovereign holds title or has the responsibility for operation of the project." (Stoney Creek Orchards v. State of California (1970) 12 Cal.App.3d 903, 907, 91 Cal.Rptr. 139.) In the majority of cases that apply the substantial participation test, the public entity has defe......
  • Del Oro Hills v. City of Oceanside, D017139
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • January 23, 1995
    ...substantial damage to property rights that was substantially caused by the entity's conduct. (Stoney Creek Orchards v. State of California (1970) 12 Cal.App.3d 903, 906-907, 91 Cal.Rptr. 139; 5 Witkin, Cal.Procedure (3d. ed. 1985), Pleading, § 641, pp. 91-92.)11 It should be noted that Del ......
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    ...449.) A defective prayer is simply irrelevant to the question whether a cause of action is stated. (Stoney Creek Orchards v. California (1970) 12 Cal.App.3d 903, 907-908, 91 Cal.Rptr. 139.) Because the fifth cause of action of the first amended complaint stated a legally valid cause of acti......
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