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U.S. Supreme Court

Yuma County Water Users' Assn. v. Schlecht, 262 U.S. 138 (1923)

Yuma County Water Users' Association v. Schlecht

No. 268

Argued February 28, 1923

Decided April 30, 1923

262 U.S. 138


1. Preliminary, tentative opinions of the cost of constructing projected irrigation works, expressed by government engineers and officials in official correspondence and in statements at a meeting of prospective water users, do not constitute the estimate of cost, or the public notice, required by § 4 of the Reclamation Act, and, though relied upon by the water users in subjecting their lands to the project, do not bind or estop the government from afterwards fixing the construction charges against the lands pursuant to the statute in accordance with a higher estimate arrived at in the light of further investigation and experience. P. 262 U. S. 143.

2. The Reclamation Act, § 4, contemplates a precise and formal public notice, stating the lands irrigable under a project, the limit of area for each entry, the charges per acre, the number of annual installments, and the time when payments shall commence. P. 262 U. S. 144.

3. The determination by the Secretary of the Interior of the practicability of a project and the making of the construction contracts are conditions precedent to the estimate of cost and the public notice under § 4 of the act. P. 262 U. S. 145.

4. The time within which the notice shall be given after the occurrence of these conditions is left to the sound discretion of the Secretary, and he may delay the notice while the question of cost remains in doubt. P. 262 U. S. 145. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 262 U. S. 139

5. A contract between the government and a water users' association provided for payment of the first installment of charges at the time of completion of proposed works, and reserved the right of the Secretary of the Interior to make such changes of the plans "as further investigations and circumstances" might "dictate to be requisite for the public welfare." Held that the works were not to be deemed incomplete either (a) because a small part of the drainage system was unfinished, the effectiveness of the system not being thereby detracted from, or (b) because two of three tracts which the government undertook to reclaim were eliminated by the Secretary, in the exercise of his discretion, greater areas having been substituted which more than counterbalanced any injury that otherwise might have resulted to complaining water users in the matter of increased assessments. P. 262 U. S. 146.

6. Concurrent findings of fact of the district court and the circuit court of appeals sustaining a determination of the Secretary of the Interior that reclamation works had been completed when public notice was given under § 4 of the Reclamation Act, must be accepted by this Court in absence of clear error. P. 262 U. S. 146.

275 F.8d 5 affirmed.

Appeal from a decree of the circuit court of appeals affirming a decree of the district court which dismissed, upon the merits, a suit to restrain officials of the Reclamation Service from taking steps toward the enforcement of charges for construction cost under the Reclamation Act.

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