Idaho wetland battles contest federal EPA authority

By on December 6, 2011

Property owners in northern Idaho are facing pressure from the Environmental Protection Agency because they did not receive permits to alter wetlands on their land.

Jack Barron and his wife began excavating four acres of land in 2007 near a creek that flows into Priest Lake. The EPA said the site is a wetland and the Barrons should have obtained a permit before filling it in. Last year, Jack Barron was acquitted of violating the Clean Water Act, but the EPA required him to restore the site.“When landowners perform work without permits, wetlands are often irreparably damaged or destroyed,” the EPA said in a statement last week.

According to the EPA regional administrator, Barron has refused to comply with its demands. Barron argues that his property is not a wetland. He has sought help from Bonner County’s Property Rights Council, established to improve private-property rights.

“The jury found me not guilty,” Bonner wrote in a letter to Idaho Governor Butch Otter. “The EPA refuses to allow me to use my land and is threatening me with more legal charges.

The EPA took another Priest River-area couple to court after it claimed they also did not obtain a permit before filling in a wetland on their property. The EPA won the federal court case when the judge ruled that the couple was not yet able to have their property declared a wetland. The Supreme Court will hear the case on Jan. 9 and make a decision that could revolutionize how the Clean Water Act is applied to determining if a private property resides on a federally controlled wetland.


Image credit: Idaho Conservation Portal

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