Supreme Court Sidesteps Wetlands Disputes

April 7, 2004

The Supreme Court rejected three cases Monday that sought to restrict the government's authority to regulate wetlands.

Developers, farm groups and other organizations argued that federal regulators have gone too far by blocking development of property that is miles away from any river or waterway.

The court turned back appeals involving disputes over lands in Maryland and Virginia, which are considered part of the Chesapeake Bay system, and refused to hear the case of a Michigan man facing prison for destroying wetlands.

The lawyer for the companies trying to develop wetlands in Newport News, Va., told justices that an appeals court ruling against them extends the Clean Water Act "to the top of every mountain and the end of every street in the country."

The Maryland case involved a couple who dug a ditch on their property in Wicomico County without getting government permission first.

Bush administration lawyer Theodore Olson said that the government needs to be able to protect waterways like the Chesapeake Bay, which can be affected by work on property many miles away.

The Michigan man, John A. Rapanos, was convicted of violating the Clean Water Act for filling his wetlands in Williams Township with sand to make the land ready for development.

Source: The Associated Press