Federal Court Rules Plowing Without an Army Corps Permit Violates Clean Water Act


Pacific Legal Foundation lawyer Tony Francois provided this update on John Duarte, with Duarte Nursery, who has been fighting the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers who declared him in violation of the Clean Water Act for farming without a wetlands permit. 

Originally posted on the Pacific Legal Foundation's Liberty blog

Last Friday we received a disappointing decision in Duarte Nursery v. Army Corps of Engineers. The court ruled that the company violated the Clean Water Act by plowing its property, even though the Act exempts normal farming practices. And, the implementing regulations state that plowing is never even subject to the Act, so long as it does not convert wetlands to dry land. Since no wetlands were lost or reduced in acreage by the plowing in this case, the court’s decision amounts to a rule that you may not plow in federally regulated wetlands without an Army Corps permit, the clear exemptions to the contrary notwithstanding.

The court also reversed an earlier ruling in the case and held that although the Corps ordered Duarte Nursery to halt all activity in any area of its property that could be considered waters of the U.S. on its property, the company did not suffer any deprivation of its property. On this basis, the court then ruled that Duarte Nursery’s due process rights have not been violated by being ordered not to farm its property for the last three years.

An appeal will ensue, as day follows night. We think that both of these rulings are wrong on the law, and fail to take account of all of the facts. This ruling also raises the stakes for PLF’s ongoing litigation against the new definition of “waters of the U.S.” If farmers need a federal permit to farm in waters of the U.S. (despite Congress legislating to the contrary), then it makes an even greater difference how far this oppressive statute extends.

For Additional Information on this case:

California Farmer’s Struggles With Federal Regulators on Water Issues



Source:  Pacific Legal Fund



Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x