Escondido Water Co. v. La Jolla IndiansAnnotate this Case
466 U.S. 765 (1984)
U.S. Supreme Court
Escondido Water Co. v. La Jolla Indians, 466 U.S. 765 (1984)
Escondido Mutual Water Co. v.
La Jolla Band of Mission Indians
Argued March 26, 1984
Decided May 15, 1984
466 U.S. 765
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT
Section 4(e) of the Federal Power Act (FPA) authorizes the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Commission to issue licenses for the construction, operation, and maintenance of hydroelectric project works located on the public lands and reservations of the United States, including lands held in trust for Indians. The section contains a proviso that such licenses shall be issued "within any reservation" only after a finding by the Commission that the license will not interfere or be inconsistent with the purpose for which the reservation was created or acquired, and
"shall be subject to and contain such conditions as the Secretary of the department under whose supervision such reservation falls shall deem necessary for the adequate protection and utilization of such reservations."
Section 8 of the Mission Indian Relief Act of 1891 (MIRA), pursuant to which six reservations were established for respondent Indian Bands (respondents), provides that any United States citizen, firm, or corporation may contract with the Bands for the right to construct a flume, ditch, canal, pipe, or other appliances for the conveyance of water over, across, or through their reservations, which contract shall not be valid unless approved by the Secretary of the Interior (Secretary) under such conditions as he may see fit to impose. When the original license covering hydroelectric facilities located on or near the six reservations, including a canal that crosses respondent La Jolla, Rincon, and San Pasqual Bands' reservations, was about to expire, petitioner Escondido Mutual Water Co. (Mutual) and petitioner city of Escondido filed an application with the Commission for a new license. Thereafter the Secretary requested that the Commission recommend federal takeover of the project, and respondents applied for a nonpower license. After hearings on the competing applications, an Administrative Law Judge concluded that the project was not subject to the Commission's licensing jurisdiction. The Commission reversed and granted a license to Mutual, Escondido, and petitioner Vista Irrigation District, which had been using the canal in question. The Court of Appeals in turn reversed the Commission, holding, contrary to the Commission, (1) that § 4(e) of the FPA required the Commission to accept without modification any license conditions recommended by the Secretary; (2) that the Commission was required to satisfy its § 4(e) obligations with respect to all six of the reservations,
and not just the three through which the canal passes; and (3) that § 8 of the MIRA required the licensees to obtain right-of-way permits from respondent La Jolla, Rincon, and San Pasqual Bands before using the license facilities located on their reservations.
1. The plain command of § 4(e) of the FPA requires the Commission to accept without modification conditions that the Secretary deems necessary for the adequate protection and utilization of the reservations. Nothing in the legislative history or statutory scheme is inconsistent with this plain command. Pp. 466 U. S. 772-779.
2. But the Commission must make its "no inconsistency or interference" findings and include the Secretary's conditions in the license only with respect to projects located "within" the geographical boundaries of a federal reservation. It is clear that Congress concluded that reservations were not entitled to the protection of § 4(e)'s proviso unless some of the licensed works were actually within the reservation. Thus, the Court of Appeals erred in holding that the Commission's § 4(e) obligation to accept the Secretary's conditions and to make such findings applied to the three reservations on which no licensed facilities were located. Pp. 466 U. S. 780-78.
3. Section 8 of the MIRA does not require licensees to obtain respondents' consent before they operate licensed facilities located on reservation lands. While § 8 gave respondents authority to determine whether to grant rights-of-way for water projects, that authority did not include the power to override Congress' subsequent decision in enacting the FPA that all lands, including tribal land, could, upon compliance with the FPA, be utilized to facilitate licensed hydroelectric projects. Pp. 466 U. S. 784-787.
692 F.2d 1223 and 701 F.2d 826, affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
WHITE, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.
JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.
Section 4(e) of the Federal Power Act (FPA), 41 Stat. 1066, as amended, 16 U.S.C. § 797(e), authorizes the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (Commission) [Footnote 1] to issue licenses for the construction, operation and maintenance of hydroelectric project works located on the public lands and reservations of the United States, including lands held in trust for Indians. The conditions upon which such licenses may issue are contained in § 4(e) and other provisions of the FPA. The present case involves a dispute among the Commission, the Secretary of the Interior (Secretary), and several Bands of the Mission Indians over the role each is to play in determining what conditions an applicant must meet in order to obtain a license to utilize hydroelectric facilities located on or near six Mission Indian Reservations.
The San Luis Rey River originates near the Palomar Mountains in northern San Diego County, Cal. In its natural condition, it flows through the reservations of the La
Jolla, Rincon, and Pala Bands of Mission Indians. The reservations of the Pauma, Yuima, [Footnote 2] and three-quarters of the reservation of the San Pasqual Bands of Mission Indians are within the river's watershed. These six Indian reservations were permanently established pursuant to the Mission Indian Relief Act of 1891 (MIRA), ch. 65, 26 Stat. 712.
Since 1895, petitioner Escondido Mutual Water Co. (Mutual) and its predecessor in interest have diverted water out of the San Luis Rey River for municipal uses in and around the cities of Vista and Escondido. The point of diversion is located within the La Jolla Reservation, upstream from the other reservations. Mutual conveys the water from the diversion point to Lake Wohlford, an artificial storage facility, by means of the Escondido canal, which crosses parts of the La Jolla, Rincon, and San Pasqual Reservations. [Footnote 3]
In 1915, Mutual constructed the Bear Valley powerhouse downstream from Lake Wohlford. Neither Lake Wohlford nor the Bear Valley plant is located on a reservation. In 1916, Mutual completed construction of the Rincon powerhouse, which is located on the Rincon Reservation. Both of these powerhouses generate electricity by utilizing waters diverted from the river through the canal.
Following the enactment of the Federal Water Power Act of 1920, ch. 285, 41 Stat. 1063 (codified as Part I of the FPA,
16 U.S.C. § 791a et seq.), Mutual applied to the Commission for a license covering its two hydroelectric facilities. In 1924, the Commission issued a 50-year license covering the Escondido diversion dam and canal, Lake Wohlford, and the Rincon and Bear Valley powerhouses.
The present dispute began when the 1924 license was about to expire. In 1971, Mutual and the city of Escondido filed an application with the Commission for a new license. In 1972, the Secretary requested that the Commission recommend federal takeover of the project after the original license expired. [Footnote 4] Later that year, the La Jolla, Rincon, and San Pasqual Bands, acting pursuant to § 15(b) of the FPA, [Footnote 5] applied for a nonpower license under the supervision of Interior, to take effect when the original license expired. The Pauma and Pala Bands eventually joined in this application.
After lengthy hearings on the competing applications, [Footnote 6] an Administrative Law Judge concluded that the project was not subject to the Commission's licensing jurisdiction, because
the power aspects of the project were insignificant in comparison to the project's primary purpose -- conveying water for domestic and irrigation consumption. 6 FERC
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