Under the Clean Water Act, the United States Army Corps of Engineers regulates wetlands throughout the nation. Owners must obtain a permit from the Corps to develop, build upon, or otherwise alter their properties, if those properties contain “jurisdictional wetlands.” The Corps’ rules specifically exclude from the permitting requirement properties that are separated from other wetlands by man-made barriers, such as roads or dikes. The problem: in an effort to expand its authority, the Corps is ignoring the regulatory exclusion.
Representing a small Alaska company, Universal Welding, PLF filed a lawsuit last week against the Corps for requiring the company to obtain a permit to expand operations on its property, which is separated from a jurisdictional wetland by a county-owned public road. A clearer man-made barrier could not exist. Accordingly, Universal Welding’s property in Fairbanks, Alaska, qualifies for the regulatory exclusion.
But the Corps says it is not bound by its own rules and can require Universal Welding to obtain a permit. Does the Corps care that it is ignoring the rules? No. It has drafted lawyers from the United States Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. to defend against PLF’s lawsuit, which is intended to enforce the rule of law against a bloated government bureaucracy seeking to impose its will in every corner of the nation under the guise of enforcing the Clean Water Act. We will meet them in court. Our motion for summary judgment can be found here: MSJ – Universal Welding.