Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
The legislative history, the language of the Boulder Canyon Project Act (act), 43 U.S.C.S. §§ 617-617t, and the scheme established by the act for the storage and delivery of water convince the United States Supreme Court that Congress intended to provide its own method for a complete apportionment of the mainstream water among Arizona, California, and Nevada.
In an original action in the Supreme Court of the United States in which Arizona sued California and seven of its public agencies, and later Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and the United States were added as parties, the basic controversy was as to how much water each state has a legal right to use from the Colorado River and its tributaries. The Supreme Court referred the case to a special master to take evidence, find facts, state conclusions of law, and recommend a decree, all subject to consideration, revision, or approval by the Court. The master concluded that (1) the issues in the case were not controlled by the Colorado River Compact, the law of prior appropriation, or the doctrine of equitable apportionment; (2) the only waters apportioned by the Boulder Canyon Project Act were the mainstream waters of the Colorado River, so that diversions within Arizona and Nevada of tributary waters flowing in those states will not be regarded as part of either state's allocation of Colorado River water; (3) although the states of the lower Colorado River basin have failed to allocate among themselves the first 7,500,000 acre-feet of water apportioned to them from the Colorado River mainstream, the contracts of the Secretary of the Interior, together with a statutory limitation on California's share, validly apportioned the water 4,400,000 acre-feet to California, 2,800,000 acre-feet to Arizona, and 300,000 acre-feet to Nevada; (4) in the case of a shortage, the Secretary of the Interior must make a pro rata reduction in each state's share; (5) the Secretary was without power to charge Arizona and Nevada for diversions made by them from Colorado River tributaries above Lake Mead; (6) the Secretary was without power to charge Arizona and Nevada for diversions from the Colorado River mainstream in the lower basin above Lake Mead; (7) mainstream water cannot be delivered to Nevada users unless contracts with such users were made with the Secretary, notwithstanding Nevada's contract with the Secretary; (8) in creating the Chemehuevi, Cocopah, Yuma, Colorado River, and Fort Mohave Indian Reservations, the United States reserved enough water from the Colorado River to irrigate the irrigable parts of the reserved lands, for future as well as present needs, and such water rights were "present perfected rights" entitled to priority; (9) the United States also intended to reserve water sufficient for the future requirements of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, the Havasu Lake National Wildlife Refuge, the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge, and the Gila National Forest; and (10) all uses of mainstream Colorado River within a state, including the uses of the United States, are chargeable to that state's apportionment.
Did the special master make the correct conclusions with regard to the issue at hand?
Yes, except with respect to conclusions 4 and 6.
The Supreme Court agreed with the master's conclusions 1- 3, 5, and 7-10, and disagreed with conclusions 4 and 6. The Court held that in passing the Boulder Canyon Project Act, Congress created its own comprehensive scheme for apportioning the mainstream waters of the lower Colorado River among California, Arizona, and Nevada, in the proportions indicated above; that the Secretary of the Interior was authorized to carry out the allocation of mainstream waters and to decide which users within each state will get water, without regard to the law of prior appropriation; and that in the event of a water shortage, the Secretary was free to allocate water according to recognized methods of apportionment or by reasonable methods of his own.