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Priest Lake homeowners prevail against EPA

May 25, 2023

Chantell and Michael Sackett
Today, Congressman Russ Fulcher (R-ID) issued a statement in support of the Supreme Court ruling in Sackett v. EPA, a case that has far-reaching implications for property owners across the nation and the way “waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) are regulated. The Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of Chantell and Michael Sackett, Priest Lake.

“The Supreme Court's decision to reject the EPA’s expanded definition of WOTUS and uphold the rights of the Sackett family to build their home on their own property stands as a powerful affirmation of individual property rights,” Fulcher said. “For Idahoans, water is a lifeline and local control has a long, proud tradition. I commend the Court's recognition of the Sacketts’ constitutional rights and the significance of protecting Idaho’s ranchers, farmers, irrigators, and landowners from regulatory overreach.”

Since 2021, Fulcher has urged the EPA to halt any implementation of an expanded definition of WOTUS until the Supreme Court ruled on Sackett v. EPA. In 2021, as the agency looked poised to expand the definition of “navigable waters,”

Fulcher wrote that “rather than soliciting and genuinely listening to input from the general public, small businesses ... the Agencies intend to proceed with a rulemaking that will once again confuse regulated parties and lead to the same misinterpretations of legal standards as the Obama Administration’s WOTUS rule.”

In 2022, Fulcher warned that moving ahead with changes to WOTUS would constitute a “misuse of agency resources and taxpayer dollars” and “would only serve to leave the regulated community with prolonged uncertainty regarding regulations and enforcement.” In April of 2023, Fulcher voted for H.J. Res. 27, which would block the Biden Administration’s WOTUS rule. The bill passed the House of Representatives with a bipartisan vote of 227-198.

In 2007, the Sacketts set out to build a family home on two-thirds-of-an-acre lot near Priest Lake. Not long after starting construction on their lot, the EPA ordered all work to stop, with the potential of massive fines because the Sackett property contains "navigable waters." The property in question contains no stream, river, lake or similar waterbody. However, the EPA contended that the proposed house required a Clean Water Act permit because Priest Lake is a navigable water, a non-navigable creek connects to Priest Lake, the non-navigable creek is connected to a man-made ditch and the man-made ditch is connected to wetlands.

The wetlands are separated from the Sackett lot by a thirty-foot wide paved road.

On September 22, 2021, the Sacketts filed a writ of certiorari. On January 24, 2022, the Supreme Court granted a limited question in the case for consideration. The question presented by the petitioners is whether the Ninth Circuit set forth the proper test for determining whether wetlands are “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act.

Questions or Comments? Send us an email!

Mike Weland, Publisher

6931 Main St.
P.O. Box 1625
Bonners Ferry, ID 83805
(208) 295-1016

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