Challenging an unwarranted “wetlands”
designation in Idaho
Blindsided by the
Imagine buying a small parcel in a
residential neighborhood, and starting
to put down gravel in preparation for
building a house. But then, suddenly,
federal bureaucrats swoop in to say
they control your property and you
can't build a thing on it!
Moreover, they order you to remove the
gravel and restore the land to their
liking - or you could face thousands of
dollars per day in fines!
This is the
nightmare facing Chantell and Michael
, of Priest Lake, Idaho. To
learn how PLF attorneys are fighting for
them, read on.
Pacific Legal Foundation
EPA's victims deserve their day in court
Through a "compliance order," without
warning or hearings, EPA told the
Sacketts they cannot do anything on
their land, because-the agency
claims-the property is "wetlands" that
EPA has control over.
This claim is highly dubious, and the
Sacketts want to contest it in court.
But they're being denied that
opportunity. A three-judge panel of the
Ninth Circuit ruled they can't get
judicial review unless they first go
through the likely futile process of
applying for a federal wetlands permit.
That could cost $200,000 - more than the
value of their land! And they might not
be allowed to start the application
process for years!
Representing the Sacketts pro bono, PLF
is fighting this outrageous price tag on
justice. PLF attorney Damien Schiff
explains our next step.
Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency
Damien M. Schiff
Status: Matter did not
resolve through mediation. Adverse decision
issued by Ninth Circuit on September 17, 2010.
PLF is planning to file certiorari petition to
the U.S. Supreme Court.
Sacketts own a small lot in Bonner County,
Idaho. The lot contains some wet areas and is
part of a nearly built-out subdivision. The lot
lies approximately 500 feet from Lake Priest, a
navigable water body. There is no direct
hydrological connection between the site and the
lake. However, contrary to the recent Rapanos
decision, the EPA claims the wet areas on the
lot are jurisdictional wetlands subject to the
Clean Water Act. When the Sacketts placed fill
material on the lot for the construction of a
home, the EPA issued an administrative
compliance order directing the Sacketts to
remove the fill and restore the lot to its
original condition. According to the EPA,
failure to comply with the order may subject the
Sacketts to civil penalties up to $32,500 per
day per violation and administrative penalties
of up to $11,000 per day for each day of
The Sacketts contest the EPA’s findings but
the agency refuses to give the Sacketts a
hearing to determine if the Clean Water Act
applies. Thus, without any actual proof of
federal jurisdiction, the Sacketts must either
restore the lot at great expense or subject
themselves to civil and criminal penalties.
This violates constitutional due process. PLF
represents the Sacketts in a court action
designed to force the EPA to hold such a