Rapanos v. United States

547 U.S. 715 (2006)


D backfilled wetlands on a parcel of land. The nearest body of navigable water was 11 to 20 miles away. P had informed D that his saturated fields were 'waters of the United States,' that could not be filled without a permit. Twelve years of criminal and civil litigation ensued. The average applicant for an individual permit spends 788 days and $271,596 in completing the process, and the average applicant for a nationwide permit spends 313 days and $28,915--not counting costs of mitigation or design changes. 'Over $1.7 billion is spent each year by the private and public sectors obtaining wetlands permits.' P directs that 'all factors which may be relevant to the proposal must be considered including the cumulative effects thereof: among those are conservation, economics, aesthetics, general environmental concerns, wetlands, historic properties, fish and wildlife values, flood hazards, floodplain values, land use, navigation, shore erosion and accretion, recreation, water supply and conservation, water quality, energy needs, safety, food and fiber production, mineral needs, considerations of property ownership and, in general, the needs and welfare of the people.' P has interpreted their jurisdiction over 'the waters of the United States' to cover 270-to-300 million acres of swampy lands in the United States--including half of Alaska and an area the size of California in the lower 48 States. P has asserted jurisdiction over virtually any parcel of land containing a channel or conduit--whether man-made or natural, broad or narrow, permanent or ephemeral--through which rainwater or drainage may occasionally or intermittently flow. The District Court found that the three described wetlands were 'within federal jurisdiction' because they were ''adjacent to other waters of the United States.'' The court of appeals ruled in favor of P’s interpretation of waters of the United States. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.