The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003 Page: 385
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Restoring the Oldest Water Right in Texas
Previous court decisions in the class suit had established the point
that the San Antonio River Authority had reasonably exercised its
police powers when it relocated the river channel two hundred feet
from the Old San Juan Dam. At issue in these trials was the question of
damages and compensation by the SARA. In the first case Curtis R.
Hunt petitioned the court for a judgment in the sum of $19,000
together with annual interest from April 1958 to the date of
judgment.43 Hunt's claim was based on his contention that acts of the
river authority in the spring of 1958, when it relocated the San
Antonio River channel and covered up the old dam, had diminished
the value of his tract of land. He argued that the SARA's actions consti-
tuted a taking of his property rights. Hunt owned 12.5 acres adjacent
to the San Antonio River and the San Juan Acequia. Acts of trespass by
the river authority, Hunt asserted, had resulted in significant expenses
and losses. As a result of the channel improvement project in 1958,
Hunt claimed that he had incurred substantial expenses in the drilling
and equipping of a well and the pumping of ground water in order to
irrigate his land.44
Attorneys for the SARA answered Hunt's claims by denying that it had
constructed a new bed for the San Antonio River, and instead the river
authority had "merely altered and enlarged the natural bed of the river
westward ... without disturbing the east bank thereof in the vicinity of
the headgate of the acequia and without touching said headgate." The
SARA acknowledged removing the old San Juan Dam, but justified this
action on the grounds that the dam was its sole property. Moreover, the
SARA noted that it had replaced the original dam with a new and better
dam from which the plaintiff and others could pump water to the ditch:
"The old dam was a crumbling makeshift of sandbags, earth and rock,
often washed out, and the new one is modern and [of] permanent con-
In the second trial, G. Garrett Lewis and his wife petitioned the court
for a judgment against the SARA in the sum of $32,500, together with
annual interest from March 25, 1958. As in the case of Curtis R. Hunt,
the Lewises claimed they owned land adjacent to the San Antonio River
and the San Juan Acequia that was damaged when the SARA excavated a
new river channel without the consent of any of the landowners. To sub-
stantiate their entitlement to the gravity flow of water from the river, the
41 Curtis R Hunt v. San Antonio Raver Authonty, no. F-115, 976A, in the 131stJudicial District of
Bexar County; and G. Garrett Lewzs v. San Antonio Raver Authority, no. F-115-976B, in the 131st
Judicial District of Bexar County.
44Plaintiffs original petition in Hunt v. SARA, no. F-115, 976A, in the 131stJudicial District of
Bexar County, Feb. 25, 1964.
45 Defendant's original answer in Hunt v. SARA (1964).
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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/m1/453/: accessed June 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.