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United States v. Twin City Power Co., 350 U.S. 222 (1956)

United States v. Twin City Power Co.,

No. 21

Argued October 18, 1955

Decided January 23, 1956

350 U.S. 222


In a suit brought by the United States for the condemnation of private land adjoining a navigable river as part of a project for the improvement of the Savannah River basin, the just compensation which the Fifth Amendment requires to be paid does not include the value of the water power in the flow of the stream. Pp. 350 U. S. 223-228.

(a) A federal court may not substitute its judgment for a congressional determination that the taking is for the improvement or protection of navigation. P. 350 U. S. 224.

(b) If the interests of navigation are served, it is constitutionally irrelevant that other purposes also may be advanced. P. 350 U. S. 224.

(c) The interest of the United States in the flow of a navigable stream derives from the Commerce Clause, and can be asserted to the exclusion of any competing or conflicting interest. Pp. 350 U. S. 224-225.

(d) The fact that the land does not lie in the bed of the river nor below high water, but above and beyond the ordinary high water mark, does not entitle the owner to compensation based on a value in the flow of the stream. Pp. 350 U. S. 225-226.

(e) United States v. Gerlach Live Stock Co., 339 U. S. 725, Federal Power Commission v. Niagara Mohawk Power Corp., 347 U. S. 239, and United States v. Kansas City Life Ins. Co., 339 U. S. 799, distinguished. United States v. Chandler-Dunbar Co., 229 U. S. 53, followed. Pp. 350 U. S. 225-228.

( f ) The fact that the private owners had interests in the water that were recognized by state law does not entitle them to compensation for such value. Pp. 350 U. S. 227-228.

(g) Under the Fifth Amendment, only loss to the owner, not gain to the taker, is compensable. P. 350 U. S. 228.

(h) To require the United States to pay for this water power value would be to create private claims in the public domain. P. 350 U. S. 228.

215 F.2d 592 reversed.

Page 350 U. S. 223

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