CITY OF FRESNO V. CALIFORNIA, 372 U. S. 627 (1963)

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U.S. Supreme Court

City of Fresno v. California, 372 U.S. 627 (1963)

City of Fresno v. California

No. 51

Argued January 7, 1963

Decided April 15, 1963

372 U.S. 627


Claimants to water rights along the San Joaquin River below the Friant Dam in California brought suit against the United States, local officials of the United States Bureau of Reclamation, and a number of irrigation and utility districts to enjoin the storage and diversion of water at the dam, which is part of the Central Valley Reclamation Project, authorized by Congress and undertaken by the Bureau of Reclamation under the Act of August 26, 1937, 50 Stat. 844. The suit was brought originally in a State Court and was removed to a Federal District Court. The City of Fresno intervened as a party plaintiff and, in addition to injunctive relief, sought a declaratory judgment as to (1) its rights to underground water fed by the river, (2) its statutory priority, under California law, to the use of water for municipal or domestic purposes, (3) its prior right under the California statutes because of its location, and (4) its entitlement to project water from the United States at the same rate charged for water delivered for irrigation purposes.


1. The suit against the United States must fail for lack of consent; the relief against the Reclamation Bureau officials must also fail as being in truth against the United States; the United States had seized, in whole or in part, the water rights asserted by the claimants, and their recourse was through a suit under the Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1346, for damages. Dugan v. Rank, ante, p. 372 U. S. 609. Pp. 372 U. S. 628-629.

2. Section 8 of the Reclamation Act of 1902 does not mean that state law may operate to prevent the United States from exercising the power of eminent domain to acquire the water rights of others. Pp. 372 U. S. 629-630.

3. Fresno has no preferential rights to contract for project water, but may receive it only if, in the judgment of the Secretary of the Interior, irrigation will not be adversely affected. Pp. 372 U. S. 630-631.

4. Under § 9(c) of the Reclamation Project Act of 1939, authority and discretion to fix rates covering irrigation as well as municipal water service was delegated to the Secretary of the Interior; and the

Page 372 U. S. 628

officials of the Bureau of Reclamation acted entirely within the scope of their authority in operating the Project as they did, and fixing the rates for water in accordance with congressional mandate, as approved by this Court in Ivanhoe Irrigation District v. McCracken, 357 U. S. 275. Pp. 372 U. S. 631-632.

293 F.2d 340, 307 F.2d 96, affirmed as to this petitioner.

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