Hinderlider v. La Plata Co.
304 U.S. 92 (1938)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Hinderlider v. La Plata Co., 304 U.S. 92 (1938)

Hinderlider v. La Plata River & Cherry Creek Ditch Co.

No. 437

Argued February 10, 11, 1938

Decided April 25, 1938.

304 U.S. 92

Syllabus

1. The water of an interstate stream, used beneficially in each of the two States through which it flows, must be equitably apportioned between the two. P. 304 U. S. 101.

The claim that, on interstate streams, the upper State has such ownership or control of the whole stream as entitles it to divert all the water, regardless of any injury or prejudice to the lower State, has been consistently denied by this Court. P. 304 U. S. 102.

2. A decree of a state court cannot confer a right in the water of an interstate stream in excess of the State's equitable portion of such water. P. 304 U. S. 102.

Page 304 U. S. 93

3. A decree of a state court adjudicating to a local user a right in the water of an interstate stream in excess of the State's equitable portion thereof is not res judicata as to another State and its citizens who claim the right to divert water from the stream in such other State and who were not parties to the proceedings. P. 304 U. S. 103.

4. It is not essential to the validity of a compact between States for the apportionment of the water of an interstate stream that there be judicial or quasi-judicial decision in respect of existing rights. P. 304 U. S. 104.

5. Whether the apportionment of the water of an interstate stream be made by compact between the upper and lower States with the consent of Congress or by a decree of this Court, the apportionment is binding upon the citizens of each State and all water claimants, including grantees whose rights antedate the compact or decree. P. 304 U. S. 106.

6. A compact between two States for apportionment of the water of an interstate stream may provide for division of the water at times, and at other times for the use of the entire flow by one State or the other in alternating periods, and authority may validly be delegated to the States' engineers to determine when the use should be rotated. P. 304 U. S. 108.

So held where the evidence conclusively established that, at the times when rotation was determined upon, the stream could in that way be more efficiently used.

7. No vitiating infirmity being here shown in the proceedings preliminary to the La Plata River Compact or in its application, the apportionment made by it between Colorado and New Mexico of the water of the La Plata River could not be held to deprive a Colorado appropriator of any vested right, even though a right had previously been adjudicated to him in a water proceeding in a court of that State. P. 304 U. S. 108.

8. The assent of Congress to the La Plata River Compact between Colorado and New Mexico does not make the compact a "treaty or statute of the United States" within the meaning of § 237(a) of the Judicial Code, and a decision of the state court against its validity is not appealable to this Court. P. 304 U. S. 109.

9. A claim based on the equitable interstate apportionment of water, like one based on the proper location of a state boundary, is not within the provisions of § 237(a) of the Judicial Code. P. 304 U. S. 109.

10. The decision of the Supreme Court of Colorado in this case, restraining the State Engineer from taking action required by the La Plata River Compact, denied an important claim under the

Page 304 U. S. 94

Constitution, and is reviewable by this Court on certiorari under § 237(b) of the Judicial Code. P. 304 U. S. 110.

11. Whether the water of stream must be apportioned between the two States through which it flows is a federal question, upon which neither the statutes nor decisions of either State can be conclusive. P. 304 U. S. 110.

12. That the States which are parties to a compact are not parties to the suit and cannot be made so does not deprive this Court of jurisdiction to determine the validity and effect of the compact. P. 304 U. S. 110.

101 Colo. 73, 70 P.2d 849, reversed.

Appeal from the affirmance of a judgment requiring water officials of Colorado to permit diversion of water from the La Plata River by the respondent Ditch Company, notwithstanding contrary provisions of the La Plata River Compact. Appeal dismissed; certiorari granted.

Page 304 U. S. 95

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