Friday, May 4, 2012

Early Legal Challenges To The Rez

Getting The Rez built was no easy task.  in 1958 the Mississippi Legislature created the Pearl River Valley Water Supply District and charged it with acquiring land and building the Pearl River Reservoir, but the agency faced legal challenges at every turn.  One such challenge was taken to the Mississippi Supreme Court.

The following transcript is from an article in The Brandon News dated Thursday, January 15th 1959.

Image copies of the article are available:
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Monday of this week the Mississippi Supreme Court gave the legal approval of the constitutionality of the proposed Pearl River Reservoir.  The court's decision was divided, 6-3, with Justices W. N. Ethridge Jr., Lee D. Hall, Percy M. Lee, James G. Holmes, R. Olney Arrington and Robert G. Gillespie assenting.  The dissenting opinion was by Chief Justice Harvey McGehee and Justices W. G. Roberts and John W. Kyle. 

One of the appellants, Lewis Culley, told newsmen Tuesday that he would probably appeal to the Federal courts.  In addition to Culley, the appeal to the State Supreme Court included Dr. Ben N. Walker and Hinds County Board of Supervisors - who had initiated the appeal. 

However, directors of the Pearl River Valley Water Supply District have indicated that plans for the reservoir would proceed now that the state's highest court has given it approval.  The plans call for construction of a three-mile long earthen dam across the Pearl River that will create a 37,000 acre lake touching five central Mississippi counties which are included in the district.  

In the prevailing opinion, Justice Etheridge wrote that "...we cannot assume in advance that the board will abuse its power" by reselling land for private instead of public use.  He added that the evidence introduced showed that the one-quarter mile perimeter beyond the water line is necessary for the public use in the protection and development of the river. 

In the dissenting opinion, Justice McGeehee wrote that a decision now as to the necessity for the quarter-mile perimeter would be only an "advisory opinion," since that is a question for a later court of eminent domain to decide.  He also dissented on the grounds that the act does not provide for permanent "reasonable rental" on sixteenth section school lands to be flooded by the project. 

In the case of a similar project near Corpus Christi, Texas, a reservoir has been built and in use for almost a year, yet litigation still continues and is expected to be in the courts for several more years. 

The Rez News
Barnett Reservoir

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