United States v. Burley

Decision Date29 March 1909
Citation172 F. 615
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Idaho

C. H Lingenfelter, Hugh E. McElroy, C. E. Stoutemyer, and S. L Tipton, for the United States.

John G Willis and J. L. Niday, for defendants.

DIETRICH District Judge (orally).

This is a proceeding in eminent domain, brought by authority of the Attorney General, on behalf of the United States, to condemn certain lands of the defendant for reservoir purposes pursuant to an application made therefor by the Secretary of the Interior, proceeding under the provisions of an act of Congress entitled 'An act appropriating the receipts from the sale and disposal of public lands in certain states and territories for the construction of irrigation works for the reclamation of arid lands,' approved June 17, 1902. Act June 17, 1902, c. 1093, 32 Stat. 388 (U.S. Comp. St. Supp. 1907, p. 511).

By agreement of counsel, all issues excepting that of the value of the lands taken were submitted to the court without a jury. Two general questions are presented by the record: Does the law authorize the Secretary of the Interior to construct a project of the character of that for which these lands are sought? And are the lands reasonably necessary to such construction?

The latter question may be summarily disposed of. Without conflict, the evidence conclusively shows that the reservoir, which is an essential feature of the projected irrigation system, cannot be utilized to its full capacity without submerging the defendant's lands. Leaving out of consideration lands privately owned, it will be necessary to maintain the impounded water at a level above the lands in question in order to reach tracts the title to which is still in the government. It follows that the taking of these lands is necessary, if the plan of irrigation adopted by the Secretary of the Interior is to be carried out. Whether, as has been suggested, an equally feasible, or more feasible, scheme might not be devised, and whether some other reservoir site might not be selected, are immaterial inquiries. The record discloses no circumstances or conditions taking the case out of the general rule that, in the absence of bad faith, the judgment of the party exercising the right of eminent domain as to what and how much land shall be taken is conclusive.

The other point, the authority of the Secretary of the Interior to engage in such an enterprise, involves somewhat different, though kindred, considerations. Upon the part of the defendant it has been earnestly and persistently urged that the question is foreclosed, adversely to the government, by the 'Kansas-Colorado Case.'

Kansas v. Colorado, 206 U.S. 91, 27 Sup.Ct. 655, 51 L.Ed. 956. But I am unable to yield to this contention. The point in that case was that the government was claiming some dominant right to the waters of the Arkansas river, which was conceded to be a nonnavigable stream, and hence not within the jurisdiction of the general government as a natural highway. The contention for the government was that, for the purposes of reclaiming arid lands, it has superior authority over, and supervisory control of, the waters in such streams, to the exclusion of state jurisdiction. The conclusion of the court was that 'each state has full jurisdiction over the lands within its borders, including the beds of streams and other waters. ' Here no such issue is tendered. The congressional act, from which alone the Secretary of the Interior derives his authority, expressly provides that in appropriating, distributing, and using water he shall proceed in conformity with the laws of this state; and it is not pretended here that the officers of the government claim, or have claimed, exemption from the limitations of such laws. Without going into details, it may be stated generally that the plaintiff, in prosecuting its work, has followed substantially the same course which, under the laws of Idaho, a private corporation, in appropriating and diverting public waters for the purposes of irrigation, must pursue.

The precise point upon which defendant chiefly relies in urging that the proceeding is without authority of law is that one of the purposes for which the reservoir is to be used is the irrigation of lands which had passed into private ownership prior to the inception of the project. Whether or not, under the Constitution, Congress is without the power to authorize the expenditure of public money and the exappropriation of private property for the irrigation of private lands exclusively, it is unnecessary at this time to...

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7 cases
  • United States v. Gerlach Live Stock Co United States v. Potter United States v. Erreca United States v. James Stevinson United States v. Stevinson United States v. 8212 Securities Co
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • June 5, 1950
    ...decreed from it. Comstock v. Ramsay, 55 Colo. 244, 133 P. 1107. The entire Boise River in Idaho has been appropriated. United States v. Burley, C.C., 172 F. 615. Many Colorado streams are already overappropriated. Humphreys Tunnel & Mining Co. v. Frank, 46 Colo. 524, 105 P. 1093. See Wiel, ......
  • Augusta Power Co. v. Savannah River Electric Co.
    • United States
    • South Carolina Supreme Court
    • November 26, 1930
    ... ... 485, 110 Am. St. Rep. 579; 20 Corpus Juris, 632; 10 Ruling ... Case Law, 183; United States v. Burley (C. C.) 172 ... F. 615; Henderson v. Lexington, 132 Ky. 390, 111 ... S.W ... ...
  • United States v. Forbes
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Middle District of Alabama
    • June 25, 1919
    ... ... adjudge to be needed for the particular use for which the ... appropriation is made, the Secretary of War is authorized ... by Congress to make the judgment as to what land is ... Again, ... in the case of the United States v. Burley (C.C.) ... 172 F. 615, in a proceeding by the United States to condemn ... land for reservoir purposes, under the Irrigation Act, Act of ... Congress June 17, 1902, c. 1093, 32 Stat. 388 (Comp. St ... Secs. 4700-4708), the court held that-- ... 'Whether ... a more feasible plan of ... ...
  • Twin Falls Canal Co. v. Foote
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Idaho
    • October 23, 1911
    ...Kansas v. Colorado, 206 U.S. 46, 92, 27 Sup.Ct. 655, 51 L.Ed. 956; United States v. Hanson, 167 F. 881, 93 C.C.A. 371; United States v. Burley (C.C.) 172 F. 615, 179 F. 1, 102 C.C.A. 429. It will further be borne in mind that the subject-matter of this action is not, directly, at least, the......
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