Monday, April 11, 2011

Water rights under the Pacific Railroad Acts

From: "Holly Bute"

... The Pacific Railroad Acts granted land and mineral rights to the respective railroads to construct railroads, but what about water rights? Were the railroads also granted specific water rights?

I am researching the CPRR claims to Truckee River Water rights and also rights to Newlands Project water. ...

—Holly Bute


Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

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4/11/2011 4:51 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Rob Krantz"

From my experience, I am not aware that railroads were granted water rights specifically as part of the Act nor were they granted mineral rights either. In the 1862 Act, the 200' wide rights of way granted were reversionary in nature and mineral rights were not conveyed. The alternate section lands were not reversionary but I do not believe that mineral rights went along with the section lands. Pls. see excerpt below from the 1862 Act, Section 3:

Sec. 3: Provided, That all mineral lands shall be excepted from the operation of this act; but where the same shall contain timber, the timber thereon is hereby granted to said company.

Please also see the article Railroad land grants ... I believe the exception of mineral rights in the alternate section lands was changed, however, I do not believe that mineral or water rights went with the rights of way themselves (where the tracks are located). I believe that these rights of way were reversionary and did not allow the railroad anything more than an easement.

In my review of certain railroad valuation maps (val maps), were there were water rights associated with property owned by SPRR, these were part of the conveyance of a parcel of land and I have not seen any such water rights associated with government land grant properties (just property acquired from third parties).

—Rob Krantz

[Robert M. Krantz was formerly of the SPRR Land Department.]

4/11/2011 4:54 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Wendell Huffman"

The Pacific Railroad Act did not grant water rights. This impacted the CPRR primarily in building up the west slope of the Sierra as virtually all the water rights on the divide between the South Yuba and North American Rivers were already claimed, primarily by the companies operating, or selling water to, the hydraulic mines in the vicinity of Dutch Flat. Those mines and the ditches feeding water to their monitors were already established before the CPRR was built. In several of Mark Hopkins's letters of February 1866, he complains of the "water sharks", their claims, and the fees they charged the railroad for water. The South Yuba water system, which moved water from Cascade and Kidd Lake to Dutch Flat, is an ancestor of PG&E, which developed the older system into the Lake Spalding-Drum Power House hydroelectric power system. The railroad company did get water rights however, most likely through purchase. Lake Putt, which is visible immediately south of I-80 just east of the Blue Canyon offramp was developed by the railroad to feed the water plug at Blue Canyon. Somewhere I found that the old Donner Lumber & Flume Co, which operated splash dams on the Truckee, was a CPRR spin-off, but I can't verify that now. Its water rights went to the Truckee River General Electric Company. I presume you have found Truckee-Carson-Lake Tahoe Project (1912) in Google Books. It's in the middle. It has some information on the water claims on the Truckee.


4/11/2011 5:41 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Holly Bute"

Thank you so much for your informative response. I know the CPRR did have water rights as they are referenced in the attached agreement from 1906.

Here's my mystery: The CPRR was building rail lines eastward from Sparks, NV at the turn of the 20th century.

At about the same time, the Reclamation Act of 1902 was instituted. The first project of this Act of Congress was The Newlands Project, which diverted water from the Truckee River at Derby Dam (near Wadsworth, NV) and via the Truckee Canal served agriculture in the area.

The Central Pacific moved to a place called Hazen, NV they even had a round house there, and since the canal went right by there, they exchanged water rights below the Derby Dam for an equal amount out of the canal. There was a small reservoir built and to this day, the railroad gets water from this reservoir!!

Here's where the water sharks are circling...

Apparently, the CPRR built a water system that is still in use by residents and the railroad over 100 years later. We have records of Southern Pacific selling their "surplus water" as late as the 1980's.

Residents have long claimed that the CPRR gave the water to the town and residents before they moved the administration out of there, but I cannot find anything else about it. The Bureau of Reclamation is saying there is no right to water, not even to the railroad, but I doubt this stance.

I have heard knowledgeable persons say that the town of Hazen's water rights were superior in right to the Newlands Project because of the railroad. I am merely trying to substantiate all this for the record.

Any and all help is greatly appreciated!!

4/11/2011 5:53 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Holly Bute"

In referring to the 1906 agreement between CPRR and United States, it references water rights and then exchanging them for canal water ... so there had to be some water rights somewhere to be able to do this exchange.

Where would I be able to find such records?

4/11/2011 6:07 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


Is it possible that while the land grants did not include surface water, they did include sub-surface sources (wells).

Particularly, in California there were specific water rights, related to placer mining ... the idea that you could use the water from a stream then pass most of it on to the next user down steam. ... I believe some received their water rights in terms of "miner's inches" This is very different than the rights a farmer or city need ... they pull water then consume it.

—Randy Hees

4/11/2011 6:14 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "John Bergman"

There must be more than one refrence to water rights etc. as the SP/UP still provides water for some of the residents of Woodford and Keene, California below Tehachapi.

—John Bergman

4/12/2011 12:26 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Wendell Huffman"
I really do not have the background to suggest where such records reside. Here are a few more clues, for what they may be worth.

Southern Pacific Transportation Company valuation map 12 of Nevada valuation section 2 contains the note (no. 17): U.S. Government granted to C.P.Ry.Co. by agreement dated March 23, 1906 "right to take 200,000 gallons of water per day from Truckee Carson Canal." The note indicates that the "Cust'd No." of this document was 2384. I can imagine a few possible meanings for "cust'd".

A subsequent note indicates that the parcels related to the reservoir and the "Hazen pipeline" were sold to Acqua Terra Inc on Nov 30, 1978. The top part of the sheet is missing from my copy, so I do not know whether water rights were mentioned again in relation to that transaction.

I realize that the rights relating to the company's pipeline from the canal to Hazen is a matter quite different from water rights. However, thinking it might provide some lead, I add also this note from a 19 June 1925 Salt Lake Division station map for Hazen: "Railroad Company granted permission to use Right of Way (not to exceed 50 ft in width) through public lands for pipe line and reservoir June 16, 1908 under Act of Feb 15 1901 See letter of Louis J. Cohn, Register of Carson City, to Wm. Hood June 23 1908." Unfortunately, I have no idea where any such letter might be today.


4/12/2011 1:10 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Holly Bute"

Wendell, Thank you! You have certainly given me some more clues!! I am on the hunt again...what do you think "cust'd" might mean??? Thanks so much!!

4/12/2011 1:11 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Holly Bute"

Thank you John! ... and I think that is what they are doing in the town of Hazen, although there is a water grab going on here and the town could lose it's water (and the railroad too, actually) They shut the canal down for repairs and the reservoir is dry, people's wells are drying up ... the railroad uses this water too! There is talk of not refilling the reservoir after the repairs are done, and it has residents very concerned. I thought I would try to do some research to find out what the status is of the railroad water rights.

Thanks again! All of this is important!

4/12/2011 1:14 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


I would think that the first place to start looking for that Cohn letter would be the Nevada State Archives in Carson City.

John Snyder, White Ensign Models
White Ensign Models on Facebook

4/13/2011 3:37 PM  
Blogger Carol said...

In this line of text, Wendell referenced water rights for Putt Lake (which is above Blue Canyon). The folks at Emigrant Gap believe that there may have been a water pipe running from Putt to Emigrant Gap Train Station some time ago that served a fire hydrant in the town as well. Some time ago the water pipe was disconnected (either by nature or by someone who did not want water going down that side of the hill). Does anyone know where we would research if the railroad had granted access to water to the town of Emigrant Gap? We would like to research the option to re-instate the hydrant and also with cooperation of the railroad reinstate the water tower for fire protection.

3/11/2013 9:18 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Wendell Huffman"

SP Right of Way and Track Map 8, California valuation section 113, showing a latest deed entry in 1973, shows two pipelines leaving Putts [sic] Lake. One runs in a southwesterly direction alongside Blue Canyon Creek to Blue Canyon. The other runs directly eastward from the lake very close to the line between section 36 T17N-R11E and section 1 T16N-R11E to the railroad at MP 171.063 (WB). From that point one pipeline ran alongside the railroad approximately 2,200 feet to a water column. I don't have milepost for that, but (assuming you are going to try to follow this on a map), MP 171.063 (where the water line reached the track from Putts Lake) is in curve no. 250 (a right hand curve with one's back toward Sacramento), and the water column was in the middle of curve no. 248 (also a right hand curve). Another line ran from MP 171.063 up the track alongside the track approximately 1200 feet to a tank and column located in the short tangent between curves nos. 251 and 252. It does not appear to have extended any closer to Emigrant than that.

In short: there is nothing on the map suggesting that Emigrant Gap itself drew water from Putts Lake. I'd suggest that before you spend a lot of time in the court house or communicating with UP [Union Pacific] about this issue, you first verify that Emigrant Gap is lower in elevation than Putts Lake. If it's not, the Gap probably got its water from somewhere else. This same map shows two water lines approaching Emigrant Gap from the east (one from Lake Valley Res.). These terminate at the old US 40 alignment in the NW 1/4 of section 32 T17N-R12E--the map gives no hint where those lines went from there (or who owned that water).

I hope this is more help that confusion.


3/11/2013 11:22 PM  
Blogger Carol said...

Wendell, thank you for your assistance. I will look up the coordinates, but based in your input, it looks like the water did not come from Lake Putt (which is uphill from the town of Emigrant Gap).

We were trying to find out so that we could re-instate the water access for fire fighting purposes. Looks like we are back to setting up water tanks for that purpose.

4/17/2013 9:36 AM  

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