A unanimous Supreme Court ruling was handed down yesterday. The law of the land says landowners may challenge the federal government and the Army Corps of Engineers over improper regulations designed to protect water.
Landowners have attempted many times to challenge Corps rulings known as jurisdictional determinations, but the government successfully argued that those determinations were not “final agency actions” and the lawsuits were dismissed. Now, when the Corps asserts jurisdiction over low spots that look more like land than water, it will have to do so with the knowledge that its jurisdictional determination can be tested in court.
“Today’s decision removes a huge roadblock that has prevented landowners from obtaining relief from the courts when the Corps illegally claims their land is federally regulated water,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said. “Now, farmers and ranchers can have their day in court when the government tells them they cannot plow a field or improve a ditch without a federal permit.”
AFBF filed amicus curiae briefs in the lower court and the Supreme Court to support plaintiffs who were represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation in the case of United States Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes Co., Inc.
These results say the Supreme Court has recognized designating a landscape feature as a “water of the U.S.” presents dire consequences to the landowner, since a farmer can be fined up to $37,500 a day or even face criminal penalties. A farmer can also spend hundreds, or even thousands of dollars to receive a permit, only to be denied after several years.