The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003 Page: 378
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Emma Dillon and the other affected landowners.24 The SARA sought a
declaratory judgment that the agency was not liable for any damages
resulting from the channel improvement project. Throughout the pro-
ceedings the SARA asserted that its authority of eminent domain allowed
it to exercise the police powers of the state and that any damages the irri-
gators suffered were consequential and not recoverable. The irrigators
along the San Juan Acequia were sued individually, as owners of tracts of
lands, and as a class. In turn, attorneys for the irrigators filed a counter-
suit and claimed that the taking of their property rights by the relocation
of the river channel entitled them to compensation under the Texas
Constitution. The landowners sought a judgment for $500,000 of indi-
vidual damages to their respective properties.
The SARA attempted to reach a compromise by drafting an agree-
ment in November 1958 admitting that it had temporarily "disrupted
the diversion and gravity flow of water." The river authority also attested
that no actual damage would result if the irrigators supported the
agency's intention to design and build a modern dam near the point of
the old San Juan Dam as a replacement. The SARA pledged that agency
engineers would build a pumping station that would draw water from a
pool to be created by the new dam. If the irrigators would accept the
compromise by releasing the SARA from any damages, the agency would
dismiss the suit for summary judgment pending in the district court.25
The defendants rejected this offer and the preparations for trial contin-
ued. A number of pleadings, including motions, briefs, memoranda,
affidavits of expert witnesses, detailed maps, plans, charts, land grant
documents, and other exhibits were prepared by both sides before a dis-
trict court decision was rendered almost a year later.
When the plaintiff sought its summary judgment, the SARA manager
was J. L. Dickson, a graduate civil engineer who had previously served as
the director of public works for the city of San Antonio. In a pre-trial depo-
sition Dickson stated that in many instances from 1899 to 1958 floods in
the San Antonio area had caused serious loss of life and property, a threat
of sufficient magnitude that in his mind should "discount any considera-
tion of obstructing in any way the channel of the river at this point so as to
provide gravity flow of water into the San Juan Ditch." He reasoned that
the lowering of the river had been necessary along with the relocation of
the channel about two hundred feet to the west. To construct a dam in the
*A San Antonzo River Authority v. Emma Dillon, et al., in the 131stJudicial Distnct of Bexar County,
no. F-i 15, 976. The other defendants included G. Garrett and Winifred Lewis, Curtis R. Hunt,
the Most Reverend Robert C. Lucey (archbishop of San Antonio), the San Antonio Conservation
Society, Luciano and BeatriceJuirez, and more than fifteen other property owners.
2 "Compromise Settlement Agreement," unsigned document, Nov 4, 1958, San Antonio
River Authority and Irrigators, San Juan Acequia folder (SACSLA).
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003, periodical, 2003; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/m1/446/: accessed July 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.