New PLF wetlands lawsuit filed in Alaska

September 11, 2014 | By DAMIEN SCHIFF

On Monday, Pacific Legal Foundation filed a new lawsuit on behalf of Universal Welding, a small family-run-and-owned steel fabrication business based in North Pole, Alaska.  The action, against the US Army Corp of Engineers, challenges that agency’s assertion of Clean Water Act jurisdiction over 14 acres of what the Corps has deemed “low-quality” wetlands that lie on Universal Welding’s property.  PLF’s lawsuit contends that these putative wetlands are beyond the power of the Corps to regulate because they are adjacent to other jurisdictional wetlands, and therefore exempt from regulation under the Corps’ own regulations.  The case relies on a prior PLF victory from the same judicial district, Great Northwest, Inc. v. US Army Corps of Engineers.  That case held that property that is separated from a jurisdictional water by two man-made barriers, with wetlands in between each barrier, is non-jurisdictional, based on the above-mentioned adjacent wetlands regulatory exception.  In Universal Welding’s case, the Corps contends that Great Northwest is inapplicable because Universal Welding’s property is separated from other wetlands by only one man-made barrier (a county road).  PLF’s lawsuit argues that this is a distinction without a difference.  A final decision in the case is expected sometime in early 2015.