Wisconsin v. Illinois
281 U.S. 179 (1930)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Wisconsin v. Illinois, 281 U.S. 179 (1930)

Wisconsin v. Illinois

Nos. 7, 11, and 12, Original

Argued March 12, 13, 1930

Decided April 14, 1930

281 U.S. 179

Syllabus

1. Passing upon the Master's report in this case and the exceptions thereto, the Court determines the amounts by which the unlawful diversion of water from Lake Michigan ( 278 U. S. 278 U.S. 367) should be diminished from time to time and the times to be fixed for each step; the plans proposed for disposal of the Chicago sewage are considered as material only as bearing on what those determinations should be; the defendants must find the way to comply with the determinations. P. 281 U. S. 197.

2. The performance to be exacted of the defendant state is to be gauged by what is possible if it devotes all its powers to the exigency. The state can base no defences upon difficulties which it has itself created, nor upon anything in its own constitution that may stand in the way of prompt action. Id.

3. In determining the extent to which the diversion of water should be reduced and the times at which the reductions should take place, a recent rise in the level of Lake Michigan cannot be taken into account, since, apart from speculation as to the duration of the rise, delays are allowable only for the purpose of limiting within fair possibility, the requirements of immediate justice pressed by the complaining states. Id.

4. These requirements as between the parties are the constitutional rights of those states, subject to whatever modification they may hereafter be subjected to by Congress acting within its authority. Id.

5. In present conditions, there is no invasion of the authority of Congress by the former decision in these cases, and the right of the plaintiffs to a decree is not affected by the possibility that Congress may take some action in the matter. Id.

6. The Court approves the Master's recommendations as to the amounts in which the diversion shall be successively reduced and the times within which the reductions shall be made, with a provision requiring the defendant Sanitary District to file with the Clerk of this Court at stated periods, reports of the progress of

Page 281 U. S. 180

the work involved at the coming in of which either party may make application to the Court for such action as may be suitable. P. 281 U. S. 198.

7. All action of the parties and the Court in this case will be subject to any order that Congress may make in pursuance of its constitutional powers and any modification that necessity may show should be made by this Court. Id.

8. The Court rejects the plaintiffs' demands that all diversion through the Drainage Canal cease, that the canal be closed at its connection with the Des Plaines River, with an incidental return of the flow of the Chicago River to its original course into the Lake, and also (a demand not contemplated by their bills) that all water pumped in the Sanitary District for domestic purposes be returned to the Lake after being purified in sewage works, and adopts as more reasonable the Master's report that, as the best way of preventing the pollution of navigable waters, an outflow from the canal into the Des Plaines should be permitted, and that the interests of navigation in the Chicago River, as a part of the Port of Chicago, will require the diversion of an annual average not exceeding 1500 c.f.s., in addition to domestic pumpage after sewage treatment. P. 281 U. S. 199.

9. The claims of the complaining states should not be pressed to a logical extreme without regard to relative suffering and to the time during which the plaintiffs have let the defendants go on without complaint. P. 281 U. S. 200.

10. If the amount of water withdrawn for domestic purposes should be excessive, it will be open to complaint. Id.

11. Whether the right for domestic use extends to great industrial plants (not argued) may be open for consideration at some future time. Id.

12. The defendants, having made the suits necessary by persisting in unjustifiable acts, must pay the costs of the litigation. Id.

Decree directed, subject to future modification

Suits brought originally in this Court by the States of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and New York, against the Illinois and the Chicago Sanitary District, to enjoin further taking of water from Lake Michigan for the purpose of carrying off the sewage of Chicago and vicinity through a drainage canal. Pursuant to the opinion reported in 278 U. S. 278 U.S. 367, the case

Page 281 U. S. 181

was referred for the second time to Charles E. Hughes, Esquire, as Special Master. The Master was directed to take testimony on the practical measures needed to dispose of the sewage without the unlawful diversions of water, and the time required for their completion, and to report his conclusions for the formulation of a decree. The decision now reported was rendered after a hearing upon exceptions to the Master's report under the second reference.

Page 281 U. S. 196

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