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LAKE SHORE & MICHIGAN SOUTHERN RAILWAY COMPANY ET AL. v. CLOUGH ET AL.

January 8, 1917

LAKE SHORE & MICHIGAN SOUTHERN RAILWAY COMPANY ET AL
v.
CLOUGH ET AL.



ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF INDIANA

White, McKenna, Holmes, Day, Van Devanter, Pitney, McReynolds, Brandeis, Clarke

Author: Pitney

[ 242 U.S. Page 376]

 MR. JUSTICE PITNEY delivered the opinion of the court.

The Little Calumet River rises in LaPorte County, Indiana, flows westerly across that and the adjoining counties of Porter and Lake into the State of Illinois, and, after continuing its course for some distance in that State,

[ 242 U.S. Page 377]

     empties into the Big Grand Calumet, which in turn empties into Lake Michigan. In Indiana the river runs approximately parallel to the south shore of the lake. Intervening is a ridge of sandy land about one mile in width, 30 feet higher than the water level of the lake, and 10 feet higher than the river. The Lake Shore & Michigan Southern and the Chicago, Indiana & Southern companies own parallel railroad lines running along this ridge. Neither of these roads crosses the river in Indiana. The Michigan Central Railroad crosses the river in that State upon a steel bridge resting on abutments and piers. The Calumet Valley, in Porter and Lake counties, is a mile or more in width, lying between the ridge on the north and low hills on the south. The watershed drained by the river in Indiana is about 350 square miles. At times the river fails to carry within its banks all the water, and the overflows produce a marsh having an area of 14,000 acres. Under "An Act concerning drainage," approved March 11, 1907 (Laws 1907, p. 508; 3 Burns' Ann. Ind. Stats. 1914, § 6140), application was made by defendants in error, owners of lands affected by the overflows, to the Porter Circuit Court, for the establishment of a proposed plan of drainage, its essential features being the cutting of an artificial channel for a considerable distance along the course of the Little Calumet and at such a gradient as to reverse the direction of its flow, and the construction of an outlet for its waters in the form of an open ditch to run northwardly, cutting through the sandy ridge and emptying into the lake. Pursuant to the provisions of the act, the petition was referred to the drainage commissioners. They made a report in favor of the proposed plan, and assessed substantial damages, in excess of benefits, in favor of the Chicago, Indiana & Southern and the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern companies with respect to their rights of way. No benefits or damages were appraised to the Michigan Central. Under § 4 of the act certain landowners

[ 242 U.S. Page 378]

     assessed with benefits filed remonstrances against the awards of damages to the former two companies. Each of the three companies filed remonstrances: the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern and the Chicago, Indiana & Southern upon the ground that the damages awarded to them were inadequate because the new ditch, where it was to cross their rights of way, would be 70 feet wide at the bottom, about 30 feet deep, and about 200 feet wide at the top, and the expense of bridging it, with the tracks, would in each instance be upwards of $100,000; the Michigan Central, because no damages were assessed in its favor although by the deepening of the channel of the river at its crossing it would be required to take out the present piers and abutments and erect new ones to support the bridge at a cost of about $60,000. Upon the commissioners' report and the remonstrances the matter came on for hearing before the Circuit Court, where findings were made setting forth the necessity for the drainage, stating the plan in detail, finding that it would be practicable to accomplish the proposed drainage without an expense exceeding the aggregate benefits; that the proposed work would benefit the public health, would improve the public highways in several townships specified, and would be of public utility. It was further found that the Chicago, Indiana & Southern and Lake Shore & Michigan Southern companies, whose roads were to be crossed by the main ditch, had no property other than their right of way that would be affected or interfered with or touched by the drainage proceeding, and these companies would not be damaged by the construction of the proposed drain; and that at the point where the ditch was to pass under the bridge of the Michigan Central the natural channel of the stream would have to be deepened, and this would necessitate the rebuilding of the abutments and piers upon which the bridge rested, but that this company would neither be damaged nor benefited

[ 242 U.S. Page 379]

     by the proposed drain. A motion for a new trial having been overruled, a judgment was rendered confirming the report of the commissioners as modified by the court and ordering that the proposed work of drainage be established. The three companies appealed to the Supreme Court of Indiana, where the judgment was affirmed (182 Indiana, 178), and they bring the case here upon questions raised under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution.

The principal contention of the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern and the Chicago, Indiana & Southern companies is that since their railroads are not within the area to be drained, and neither contribute to the formation of the marsh nor are to be in anywise benefited by its drainage, their lands can be taken only through the exercise of the power of eminent domain, with appropriate compensation, and that a denial of such compensation is a taking of their property without due process of law. A right to compensation is asserted in behalf of the Michigan Central on the ground that its present bridge and abutments form no obstruction to the natural flow of the Little Calumet River.

It will be observed that none of the lands of any plaintiff in error is expropriated. The damage they suffer is confined to a temporary inconvenience in the use of their rights of way pending the construction of the drain and the necessity for making substantial expenditures of money in order to pass their railroads over the new watercourse. But the record shows that each of the companies was organized and had its existence under the general laws of the State for the incorporation of railroad companies, that is to say, an act approved May 11, 1852, and amendments thereto. 1 Ind. Rev. Stats. 1852, p. 409; 2 Burns' Ann. Ind. ...


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