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California v. United States

438 U.S. 645 (1978)

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California v. United States

United States Supreme Court

438 U.S. 645 (1978)

Facts

The United States (plaintiff) built the New Melones Dam on a river in California (defendant) as part of the Central Valley Project, the federal portion of a massive dam and pumping system that piped water from northern to southern California. The federal Bureau of Reclamation (the bureau) applied for a permit from the California State Water Resources Control Board (the board) to appropriate the water that the dam would store for reclamation purposes. Unappropriated water was available, but the board attached conditions to the permit, including prohibiting full impoundment until the bureau showed firm commitments or a specific plan for using the water. The board concluded that without a specific plan for beneficial use, the bureau had not met the California statutory test for appropriating water. The bureau appealed, and the district and appellate courts both held that California could not impose any conditions on the United States’ appropriation permit. California appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing the state could condition allocation of water to a federal reclamation project in accordance with California water laws.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Rehnquist, J.)

Dissent (White, J.)

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