CALIFORNIAN RANCHOS SAVED

CALIFORNIAN RANCHOS SAVED

Some of the romantic old Southern California ranchos have been saved from parching of thirst by a Supreme court decision of sweeping importance, rendered a few days ago by Justice Shaw, of Los Angeles. If the court had not decided the way it did, it would have been but a matter of time when many of the picturesque old places would have been ruined for lack of water. The effect of the court’s finding will he to prevent “promotors” from swooping down with new-fangled machinery on the old mountain creeks—which watered the livestock of the old dons before the gringos came—sapping up the water, and coolly selling it away from the ranchos to power companies and cities. In the case before the court the water had been diverted from San Jose creek by tunneling under it. The Superior court—the court below—held that the water collected by the tunnel did not constitute any part of the waters of the creek. The Appellate tribunal decides that the water so taken was part of the flow of the creek, not only drawing this conclusion from the topographical circumstances, but also from the fact that the creek dried up when the tunnel was built. The action was brought by the constructor of the tunnel against riparian owners for an adjudication as to their contention that he was sapping the waters of the creek. Justice Shaw closes his opinion thus: “His (the plaintiff’s) rights therein are no greater than they would be, if he had taken the water directly from the stream. There is no finding upon the allegation that the plaintiff was taking this water to distant and non-riparian lands. The court below probably deemed this immaterial, after having found that the water taken was no part of the waters of the creek, and did not reduce the quantity there flowing. The evidence shows clearly that the water in question was taken beyond the boundaries of the land described in the complaint, but it does not show to what use it was put by the plaintiff. He had no right, however, to take it beyond the lines of the land from which it was taken, and divert it from the stream either to let it go to waste or to use it on other lands.”

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