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Imperial press and farmer. (Imperial, San Diego County, Cal.) 1901-1903, December 21, 1901, Image 1

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Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn92070142/1901-12-21/ed-1/seq-1/

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Imperial Press
VOL 1.
California has upon its statute
books a law passed in ISB7, and
amended more or less every two
\ ears ever since, that has been dis
(Missed and cussed by the general
public to a greater extent than any
other law ever enacted in this State.
This law at the time of iis enact
ment was decidedly a new departure
so far as irrigation laws go in the
United States. It was. however, de
manded by several irrigation State
conventions which were composed of 1
the leading irrigationists of the State.
That the law was imperfect in
some respects has always been con- 1
ceded by its friends, and that it is an
Impossibility to enact a perfect sys- j
tern of irrigation l:".s for irrigation
districts is also a true statement, be
cause no human laws are pel feet and
because there were features that
Bhould have been Incorporated into
the law that the people were not
n ady to concede.
One of the weak points of the law
was the fact that a board of directors
selected from ordinary farmers of
limited experience In financial mat
ters were called upon to negotiate a
million of dollars worth of bonds and
tnen construct an irrigation system
out of the proceeds received there
from. Another weak point was the
fact that for speculative purposes a
tew men would locate In an arid
country, file on a water right, organ
ize a district, authorize the Issuance
Of bonds, and then sell the water
right tiling to the district for a large
block of the bonds.
In other cases the transaction
wou.d not be so bare-faced, but still
the dealing between the district and
certain hading citizens would have
all the elements of speculation re
gardless of ..e lights or interests of
i he persons who owned the land or
to whom the land might afterwards
he sold.
There are other weak points. Tin 1
distriit bonds were often issm d for
many times the asscsed value of the
district when organized, and the bur
d. n of taxation fell so heavily on the
land owners who could not sell their
land as rapidly as they hoped, that
financial ruin stared them in the face.
In such cases the bonds were not
considered of value by investors, and
they were frequently hawked about
for any old thing that they might
hi ing. generally in absolute violation
of law.
These are the weak .-ides of the
question. Because of these weak
points, there were many districts
that went to ruin before they had an
opportunity to issue any bonds, and
"Water is King-Here is its Kingdom."
still others that were wrecked after
such issue of bonds,
Out of about forty districts organ
ized in this Stale, only four or five
are today in good running order and
on a solid financial foundation.
These few districts arc standing
monuments of the fact that the law is
a pood one, and u> wrecked districts
are monuments of the fact that a
good law may work ruin by its mal
That the law is a good law from a
legal point of view is demonstrated
by the fact that the Supreme Court
of the United States has pronounced
it. constitutional.
Not only has the highest court in
Hie land sustained the validity of the
law. but nearly, or quite, every
clause in the law subject to attack
has been adujdicated by the Supreme
Court of the State of California.
There was a time when the law
was so popular that bankers and
financiers — while they were some
times afraid of it— dare not come out
openly and criticise it or criticise the
Irrigation district bonds.
At a later date the fight against
the law became so vigorous and per
sistent. urged on by the large land
owners of the San Joaquin Valley.
that there were few who dared to
openly defend the district system and
all sale of bonds was stopped, which
caused the utter ruin of many irriga
tion districts, and the financial ruin
extended to in ividuals who were
land owners in irrigation districts
where there was no system of irriga
tion, although in some cast's bonds
were outstanding for a parttallj con
strm ted system.
Thai there are several districts
now in successful operation is evi
dence that the law rightly adminis
tered is susceptible of good results
It is a system in which the owner o!
the land to be Irrigated absolutely
owns and manages the system. a. ..1
controls the water to irrigate ih.it
land, and such owners of land get
their irrigating water at cost— if
there has boon no mistakes made in
securing or building the Irrigation
The Alta Irrigation District in Tu
lare county, is an illustration of one
of the successful irrigation districts
formed under the Wright Irrigation
District Law. This district. When
formed, purchased the 78 canal a.d
\\i distributing system, paying tin v
lor with the bonds of the distrii
These people had no exii'.riinentr to
try in the construction of a gre;>t
s > stem. It was alread] mostly emu
pletcd. The people under (his system
are satisfied and contented witli t'.e
present district program.
The Turlock and Modesto districts,
located in Merced and Stanislaus
counties, are also very successful.
The Turlock system is completed for
the irrigation of 176,000 acres, and
the success is so great that the dis
trict s now able to refund its
bonded debt at five per cent.
The Modesto district system is not
yet quite completed, but it soon will
be, when its debt wll also be refund
ed at five peir cent. This district is
nearly as large as the Turlock (lib
Both of these districts united in
constructing a dam across the Tuo
lumne River, ninety feet in height —
both districts taking water from the
same source of supply, dividing the
stream equally between the two dis
Most of the districts illegally
formed, or corruptly formed in some
cases, are dead, and there are no
ruins to mark the fait that they ever
had an existence. while a few dis
tricts that ought to havt been dead
long ago are still lingering ghosts in
the courts not having been decently
buried as yet
Now that the wheat has been sop
arattd from the chaff and there is
always more chaff than Wheat — pub
lic attention is again being turned to
the benefits Of the irrigation district
System. The mstakes that were so
numerous in the forming of the forty
districts which were formed during
the late boom, when nothing could be
done without a tinge of wild specula
tion being connected therewith, can
now be avoided. Those mistakes
have all been pointed out by the
courts in numerous cases of litiga
There should be no more wild Spec*
ulation in irrigation matters. There
should be no irrigation systems formed
that do not furnish cheap water to
those who desire to use it.
Prior to 1875 the only irrigation
companies in California were close
corporations^ whore a set of capital
"sts owned the system and sold M
use of the water to those who desired, v
to use it. For the control .of this
(lass of corporations a law was nfteiS
wards enacted requiring boards of su
pervisors and boards of trustees of
Incorporated cities and towns to an
nually, in February, fix the rates at
which companies should soil water to
consumers in their respective juris
diit tons.
in 1876 tiie system of mutual water
companies gradually came into exist
ence as a necessity of the times.
Tliese companies were incorporated
to furnish water to their stockhold
ers only at COSt. Such corporations.
When so formed, could not deliver
water to any one not a stockholder
at any price.
Most of the prominent irrigation
water companies now in Southern
California are formed on this basis.
Over such corporations, according to
a decision of the State Supreme
Court, the Board of Supervisors have
no jurisdiction so far as fixing water
rates is concerned.
There were and are serious objec
tions in many localities to the Mu
tual Water Company system. A per
son may own a tract of land in a lo
cality that is irrigated by a mutual
water compan* system ami he may
conclude to buy no water stock and
therefore he can get no water. In
such a case there is a dry desert in
the midst of a large cultivated area.
In the case of an irrigation district
all land owners in a given area must
come into tile district and their lands
must bear their proportion of the
burden to reclaim the entire area.
This is right. This is just. The
Wright District Irrigation Law has
passed through B fiery ordeal and has
come out as one of the tried laws of
the land. A better law might be pro-
cured, but no better law for the man
agement of irrigation systems has as
yet found its way upon the statute
books of any of the States of the
No. 36.

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