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UNITED STATES v. QUINCY-COLUMBIA BASIN IRRIGATION

November 24, 1986

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff
v.
QUINCY-COLUMBIA BASIN IRRIGATION DISTRICT, et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: QUACKENBUSH

 JUSTIN L. QUACKENBUSH, U.S. District Judge.

 THIS MATTER came regularly on for hearing by the court on October 26, 1986, on the cross-motions for summary judgment in the above-entitled case. Assistant United States Attorneys George W. Sherk and Robert Sweeney represented plaintiff; John W. Baird appeared on behalf of defendant Quincy-Columbia Basin Irrigation District, and Richard A. Lemargie appeared for defendant South Columbia Basin Irrigation District. This action revolves around the validity and enforceability of regulations enacted pursuant to federal reclamation law. There are no facts in dispute, rather the basic conflict arises over whether the irrigation districts and individual landowners may be required to comply with certain reporting requirements.

 In 1939, the defendant water districts were organized and became part of the Columbia Basin Project, a federal reclamation project. These entities maintain and operate the major portion of the irrigation works flowing from Grand Coulee Dam. Defendants supply water to approximately 450,000 acres of land within the districts' boundaries. The water district originally entered into repayment contracts with the government. Subsequently, the contracts were amended and in 1968 the parties executed the contracts governing this action.

 All parties agree that this action presents the following issues:

 1. Whether the Secretary of the Interior possessed the authority to promulgate the regulations in question;

 2. Whether, in light of the contract between plaintiff and defendants, the Secretary may require defendants to cease supplying water to landowners who have not complied with the present regulations; and

 3. Whether the Secretary may declare individual landowners ineligible to receive federal water for failure to comply with these regulations.

 The following statutory scheme applies to this action. The original legislation governing this area is the "Reclamation Act of 1902" (1902 Reclamation Act). 43 U.S.C. § 371 et seq. It provides that federal irrigation waters could not be supplied to lands in excess of 160 acres under one owner or 320 acres under ownership by a married couple. 43 U.S.C. § 431. The 1902 Reclamation Act does not place limitations on the amount of land leased nor does it require any reporting regarding the amount of land owned. This statute further provides that the Secretary was authorized to make such rules and regulations as necessary to carry out the provisions of the Act. 43 U.S.C. § 373.

 Congress then passed the "Reclamation Reform Act of 1982" (1982 Reform Act). 43 U.S.C. § 390aa, et seq. The Reform Act states that it's provisions applied only to contracts entered into after October 12, 1982 or to existing contracts amended to conform to the Act. 43 U.S.C. § 390cc(a). Districts with contracts entered into before October, 1982 still are subject to the provisions of the 1902 Reclamation Act except that such districts are subject to certain provisions of the new law not applicable herein. 43 U.S.C. § 390aa(b). Under the 1982 Reform Act, as a condition precedent to obtaining water from the federal project, each landowner or lessee within a district whose contract was subject to the new law must comply with certain reporting requirements. 43 U.S.C. § 390ff. The landowners must report acreage controlled to the water district which then reports to the Secretary. No such reporting had previously been required. The water consumers and the districts in this action are not subject to this provision because their contracts were entered into in 1968. Thus, the defendants are not statutorily required to produce such reports.

 The 1982 Reform Act further provided that any prior provisions of reclamation law are not affected by this Act unless they were amended by or inconsistent with the new law. 43 U.S.C. § 390ww(a). However, the 1982 Reform Act stated that the Secretary is authorized to prescribe regulations and collect data necessary to carry out provisions of that title and " other provisions of Federal reclamation law." 43 U.S.C. § 390ww(c) (emphasis added). The 1982 Reform Act further provides that "any contracting entity subject to ownership or pricing limitations of Federal reclamation law shall compile and maintain such records and information as the Secretary deems reasonably necessary to implement this title and Federal Reclamation law." 43 U.S.C. § 390zz (emphasis added) (Federal reclamation law is defined as those statutes in effect prior to the enactment of the Reform Act).

 Authority to Promulgate Regulations

 The first issue facing the court is whether the Secretary has the authority to require reporting by ...


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