Idaho Federal Court Rules Against Sacketts After SCOTUS Decided Judicial Review of an EPA Compliance Order was Permissible


In a decision released on March 31, in Sackett v. EPA, the U.S. District Court for Idaho held, without benefit of oral argument, that the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) motion for summary judgment should be granted, and accordingly, the Sacketts had violated the Clean Water Act (CWA) by making improvements to 0.63 acres of land they owned without a required CWA permit when the land qualified as a “wetlands.”

The EPA had determined the Sacketts’ “property is subject to the CWA because it contains wetlands adjacent to Priest Lake, a traditionally ‘navigable water,’ and, additionally, their property is wetland adjacent to a tributary and similarly situated to other wetlands and has a significant nexus to Priest Lake.” The District Court rejected the Sacketts’ arguments that their property was not a “wetlands” subject to the CWA.

Reviewing the pleadings and administrative record compiled in 2008, the District Court determined that the case would be decided in accordance with the pre-2015 definition of “waters of the United States,” the indicia of wetlands under relevant U.S. Corps of Engineers Guidance, and on the basis of the 2008 administrative record. The 2012 Supreme Court ruling, Sackett v, EPA, that made this hearing possible was not referenced by the District Court.