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Idaho wetlands fight in high court Monday

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear the opening arguments in Sackett v. EPA on Monday, a Priest Lake couple’s fight over whether their building lot contains wetlands.

Mike and Chantell Sackett were filling in a lot near Priest Lake in 2007 to construct a house when U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials shut down the project, saying the Sacketts had filled in wetlands without getting a permit.

Seven months after the visit, the EPA issued a compliance order, telling the couple to restore the property or risk fines of up to $32,500 per day. The Sacketts wanted a day in court to argue that their lot wasn’t a wetland.

Attorneys say the case is really about judicial process – whether the Sacketts can challenge the wetlands designation on their property before the EPA seeks enforcement action against the couple through the courts.

The case has attracted national attention. The couple are being represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation, a Sacramento-based group that advocates for private property rights and limited government.

Numerous legal briefs from other organizations have been filed in the case. The National Homebuilders Association filed a brief supporting the Sacketts’ position. The Natural Resources Defense Council, which also filed briefs in the case, has called it a corporate-backed effort to weaken regulations of the Clean Water Act.

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