Ivanhoe Irrigation Dist. v. McCracken, 357 U.S. 275 (1958)
U.S. Supreme CourtIvanhoe Irrigation Dist. v. McCracken, 357 U.S. 275 (1958)
Ivanhoe Irrigation Dist. v. McCracken
Argued April 29, 1958
Decided June 23, 1958*
357 U.S. 275
In these cases involving two federal reclamation projects in California, the Supreme Court of California refused to confirm certain contracts entered into between the United States, on the one hand, and two state irrigation districts and a state water agency, on the other hand, because it found them invalid on several grounds. Taking the position that § 8 of the Reclamation Act of 1902 required the application of state law, it held that § 5, providing generally that no right to the use of water shall be sold for lands in excess of 160 acres in single ownership, was inapplicable because in conflict with state law, and that, therefore, the excess lands provisions of the contracts were invalid. It also held that the provisions pursuant to § 9 of the Reclamation Project Act of 1939 for repayment to the United States of part of the funds expended on the construction and operation of reclamation works were invalid on the grounds that no provision was made for repayment of a stated amount within 40 years or for transfer of title to the distribution systems to the respective districts after payment thereof, and that no permanent right to receive water was vested in the respective districts and their members. On review by this Court,
Held: the judgments are reversed. Pp. 357 U. S. 277-300.
1. This Court does not have jurisdiction on appeal, because the decisions were based on the construction of a federal statute, not on a holding that federal statutes were unconstitutional. However, treating the papers as petitions for certiorari, 28 U.S.C. § 2103, certiorari is granted. Pp. 357 U. S. 279, 357 U. S. 289-290.
2. The judgments did not rest upon an adequate state ground, because state law was invoked only by the interpretation the Court gave to § 8 of the Reclamation Act of 1902. P. 357 U. S. 290.
3. Congress did not intend that § 8 of the Reclamation Act of 1902 would, under the application of state law, make the excess lands provision of § 5 inapplicable to the Central Valley Project. Pp. 357 U. S. 290-294.
4. Section 5 of the Reclamation Act of 1902 and §46 of the Omnibus Adjustment Act of 1926, providing generally that no right to the use of water shall be sold for lands in excess of 160 acres in single ownership, are not invalid under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, because they do not amount to a taking
of vested property rights in land or irrigation district water without just compensation and they do not deny equal protection of the laws by discriminating unjustly between small and large landowners. Pp. 29297.
5. In view of the rations and provisions incorporated in the amendments contained in the Act of July 2, 1956, there is no room for objection to the contracts on the ground that they infer that the water users are not entitled to water rights beyond the 40-year terms of the contracts, or that the contracts do not make clear that the districts and landowners become free of indebtedness upon repayment of their shares of the cost of the project. Pp. 357 U. S. 297-298.
6. The contracts were not invalid because of failure to recite a definite sum as being the total amount due for the water supply facilities. P. 357 U. S. 298.
7. The contracts were not invalid because of the absence of any provision to the effect that the districts would obtain title to the distribution systems when their obligations therefor had been totally discharged. Pp. 357 U. S. 298-300.