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Opinion of the Court.
of the State, and, if the same is built, as incident thereto locks and dams will necessarily be constructed across the deep waterway at or near the S. E. 14 of section 25, which dams will incidentally afford water power of the value of several millions of dollars to the State which will be lost to the State if the defendant be permitted to construct the dam in question.
The 90-foot strip along the line of the Illinois and Michigan Canal constitutes an integral part of the canal and the trustees of the canal and the canal commissioners of the State had no right or authority under the law to convey the same by deed, lease or otherwise. Wherefore the defendant acquired no right to such strip and said deeds, leases, contracts and other agreements are void so far as they pertain to the bed of the stream of the river, and to the lands lying outside of the meander line.
By virtue of the several acts of Congress set forth, the State is the owner of such lands and other lands similarly situated. The defendant, claiming to own such lands and other lands in section 25, has actually begun the erection of the dam referred to; the Attorney General, therefore, on December 12, 1907, served notice upon the defendant to desist from the erection of the dam and from further trespassing upon the lands owned by the State, and to remove any and all obstructions placed thereon. Defendant has ignored the notice and unless prevented by injunction will complete the dam to the great impairment of navigation and to the great and irreparable damage of the people of the State.
There are other allegations in regard to the leases and contracts from the canal commissioners which are not necessary to be given.
The prayer of the information was for an injunction in accordance with the allegations.
Defendant in error summarizes its answer as follows: It denied that the Des Plaines River was or ever had been
Opinion of the Court.
navigable, and alleged that it never had been navigated for the purpose of commerce; and also that it had from the earliest times been completely obstructed by various bridges and dams built without legislative authority, and that the State itself had constructed and for many years maintained, and still maintains, a dam entirely across the river at Joliet. It set out correspondence with the War Department of the United States before the construction of the dam was begun, from which it appeared that the plans of the proposed structure were submitted to that Department for the purpose of ascertaining whether the project would be in harmony with the work of the improvement of the river proposed-but never decided upon by the Government, and that the officers of the Department stated not only that it would be so in harmony but if carried out it would save the Government large sums of money. The correspondence also stated that the river had never yet been considered a navigable stream of the United States and that it was not subject to the provision of §§ 9-13 of the act of March 3, 1899 (30 Stat. 1151, c. 425), or to other similar United States legislation.
The answer further alleged that subsequently defendant in error acquired the property and that a large sum of money had been expended and heavy obligations incurred by it in carrying out the project of building the dam.
Upon the issues thus made, evidence was taken, which composes three large volumes upon which the courts below decided against plaintiffs in error; and we are to consider whether in so doing any Federal right was passed upon or denied it.
To sustain the contention that such right was passed upon and denied, it is said "that at the time the information in equity was filed, and for over six years before the defendant in error became a riparian owner, the Des Plaines River, irrespective of the question of its naviga
Opinion of the Court.
234 U. S.
bility, was a navigable river of the United States at the point where the dam was erected" and this because of the "concurrent action of the State and Federal Governments by the construction of the Chicago Sanitary Ship Canal, the connection of it with the Chicago River and Lake Michigan on the northeast and the discharge of the water into Lake Michigan from it into Des Plaines and Illinois on the southwest."
It is further contended that the state court did not decide this question adversely to plaintiffs in error but, on the contrary, excluded the admitted fact as being immaterial because that condition was artificially created. And this because defendant in error urged in that court that the navigability of the river could not be determined by its capacity as improved by the addition of the water of the Sanitary District. The court in its decision, therefore, it is the final contention, denied the rights arising from the condition of navigability thus created by state and Federal action, and plaintiffs in error insist that “if artificial navigability can create a public right which is entitled to protection against the acts of one who purchases riparian property after that condition was created, then on the conceded law the judgment of the state court was erroneous. And if those public rights are created or protected by Federal law, this court has jurisdiction to reverse the judgment.”
The inquiry immediately occurs, How did the so-called public right arise? From the mere addition of water to the river or by the conditions upon which it was admitted? The bill alleges the enactment of many laws and a complex system of improvements by virtue of them, rights asserted by the State to the lands bordering on the river and rights to the bed of the river, conveyances, leases, and contracts by public officers constituted by laws which verbally, at least, confer authority upon them, and rights asserted by defendant in error arising from the execution
Opinion of the Court.
of such authority. But all of the questions hence arising are state questions, whether depending upon law or fact, which it is not in our province to review. It would seem, therefore, at the outset that one of the elements of the Federal right asserted is absent. However, let us see what the Supreme Court of the State has decided.
Mr. Justice Vickers, delivering the opinion of the court, says, (241 Illinois, p. 309): "Appellant [the State] bases its claim on three propositions as follows: (1) That the State of Illinois owns the bed of the river at the point where it is proposed to build said dam; (2) That the Des Plaines River is a navigable stream, and that the proposed dam would constitute an obstruction to navigation; (3) That certain contracts executed by the commissioners of the Illinois and Michigan Canal, under which appellee [defendant in error] claims certain rights in connection with the construction of said dam, are void, and that no rights were acquired by or can be asserted under said contracts."
The first and third propositions manifestly involve state questions and were decided adversely to plaintiffs in error. They might be put out of discussion except so far as they may have bearing on the second proposition. By the second proposition the navigability of the river is presented as a question of fact, and of it the court said that it had received the most exhaustive treatment by counsel, and that if the dismissal of the bill by the court below had been without prejudice to renew the application for injunction the action of the court could be sustained because of the utter failure of the plaintiffs in error to prove that the construction of the proposed dam would be an obstruction to the then navigation of the river. "There is no proof," the court said (p. 320), “that the river is now being used as a public highway for commerce. On the contrary, the evidence not only shows that the river is not being so used, but it shows affirmatively that,
Opinion of the Court.
owing to the presence of numerous other dams and some fifty or more bridges which span the river, it would be impossible, under existing conditions, to navigate the same. There being at present no navigation whatever upon the river, obviously the dam in question cannot be said to be an obstruction to navigation that has no existence in fact." The trial court not making the indicated reservation but having rendered a decree based on the finding that the river was not navigable, thus settling the question for all time, the Supreme Court considered the question as presented on the merits. After a review of the evidence and the contentions of the parties, it decided that the river was not navigable in a state of nature, and declared that there was not in the entire record a well authenticated instance in which a boat engaged in commerce navigated the waters of the Des Plaines River. Referring to the testimony, the court said (p. 336), "Whatever may be thought of the preponderance of it one way or the other, it can have but little weight as against the uncontroverted fact that the river has never been used as a public highway for commerce." And again (p. 338), "After the most careful consideration of this question we are of the opinion that the Des Plaines River in its natural condition is not a navigable stream, and that the rights of parties to this suit must be determined upon that basis." The court besides rejected the contention that the Sanitary District Act declared the river to be navigable. The contention, it was said, was "based on a sentence in § 24 of said act, as follows: 'When such channel shall be completed, and the water turned therein, to the amount of 300,000 cubic feet of water per minute, the same is hereby declared a navigable stream.' Appellant's [the State] contention, under this statute, is thus stated in its brief: 'The same means that the water flowing in that channel is a navigable stream. The water so turned in was navigable in fact, and it does not lose its naviga