Appalachian Electric Power Company v. United States 311 U.S. 377 (1940)

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Until this decision, federal authority over waterways extended only to those that were navigable. In this case the Supreme Court agreed to review the scope of federal power over completely nonnavigable waters. The Appalachian Electric Company asserted that the water power act of 1920 did not apply to the New River because its waters were not navigable; moreover, the act imposed conditions dealing with neither navigation nor its protection. Justice stanley f. reed, for a 6–2 Court, concluded that it was sufficient that the river might eventually be made navigable, thus broadening the earlier definition of federal authority. The commerce clause was the constitutional provision involved and navigation was merely one of its parts. "Flood control, watershed development, recovery of the cost of improvements through utilization of power [also renders navigable waters subject] to national planning and control in the broad regulation of commerce granted the Federal Government." Justice owen roberts, joined by Justice james c. mcreynolds, dissented from Reed's expansion of the test for navigability: "No authority is cited and I think none can be cited which countenances any such test."

David Gordon