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United States v. Riverside Bayview Homes, Inc.

Supreme Court of the United States

October 16, 1985, Argued ; December 4, 1985, Decided

No. 84-701


 [*123]  [***424]  [**457]    JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

 This case presents the question whether the Clean Water Act (CWA), 33 U. S. C. § 1251 et seq., together with certain regulations promulgated under its authority by the Army Corps of Engineers, authorizes the Corps to require landowners to obtain permits from the Corps before discharging fill material into wetlands adjacent to navigable bodies of water and their tributaries.

The relevant provisions of the Clean Water Act originated in the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972, 86 Stat. 816, and have remained essentially unchanged since that time. ] Under §§ 301 and 502 of the Act, 33 U. S. C. §§ 1311 and 1362, any discharge of dredged or fill materials into "navigable waters" -- defined as the "waters of the United States" -- is forbidden unless authorized by a permit issued by the Corps of Engineers pursuant to § 404, 33 U. S. C. § 1344. 2 After initially construing the Act to cover only waters navigable in fact, in 1975 the Corps issued interim final regulations redefining "the waters of the United States" to include  [****5]  not only actually navigable waters but also tributaries of such waters, interstate waters and their tributaries, and nonnavigable intrastate waters whose use or misuse could affect interstate commerce. 40 Fed. Reg. 31320 (1975).  [*124]  More importantly for present purposes, the Corps construed the Act to cover all "freshwater wetlands" that were adjacent to other covered waters. A "freshwater wetland" was defined as an area that is "periodically inundated" and is "normally characterized by the prevalence of vegetation that requires saturated soil conditions for growth and reproduction." 33 CFR § 209.120(d)(2)(h) (1976). In 1977, the Corps refined its definition of wetlands by eliminating the reference to periodic inundation and  [**458]  making other minor changes. The 1977 definition reads as follows:

] "The term 'wetlands' means those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or ground water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bogs and similar areas." 33 CFR [****6]  § 323.2(c) (1978).

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474 U.S. 121 *; 106 S. Ct. 455 **; 88 L. Ed. 2d 419 ***; 1985 U.S. LEXIS 145 ****; 54 U.S.L.W. 4027; 16 ELR 20086; 23 ERC (BNA) 1561



Disposition:  729 F.2d 391, reversed.


wetlands, navigable, adjacent, fill, inundation, aquatic, pollution, saturated, flooding, vegetation, soil

Environmental Law, Enforcement, Discharge Permits, Effluent Limitations, Water Quality, General Overview, Clean Water Act, Coverage & Definitions, Navigable Waters, Administrative Law, Agency Rulemaking, Rule Application & Interpretation, Energy & Utilities Law, Pipelines & Transportation, Eminent Domain Proceedings, Real Property Law, Inverse Condemnation, Regulatory Takings, Civil Procedure, Special Proceedings, Eminent Domain Proceedings, Constitutional Law, Bill of Rights, Fundamental Rights, Eminent Domain & Takings, Business & Corporate Compliance, Real Property Law, Mining, Regulations, Surface Rights, Natural Resources & Public Lands, Wetlands Management, Judicial Review, Standards of Review, Deference to Agency Statutory Interpretation, Informal Rulemaking, Federal Versus State Law, Federal Preemption, Wetlands, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Solid Wastes, Permits