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On May 25, 2023, the US Supreme Court decided Sackett v. US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in favor of Idaho couple, Michael and Chantell Sackett. The Sackett’s have been fighting with the federal government for over 15 years in their efforts to build a house on an empty lot 300 feet from Priest Lake in Idaho. The EPA sent them a notice to cease construction citing that their lot contained wetlands protected by the Clean Water Act (CWA). The building materials and construction would contaminate the wetlands.

Sackett v. US Environmental Protection Agency was, at its core, an argument over the Clean Water Act, and if it should be, or is, applied to a wetland. The Clean Water Act, which regulates water pollution and strives to preserve the integrity of wetlands, is a major federal legislation in the United States. It also “establishes the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States and regulating quality standards for surface waters” (Summary of the Clean Water Act 1972). The justices of the Supreme Court argued that wetlands can only be protected by the CWA if they have a continuous surface connection with a “water of the United States” (a major body of water such as an ocean, river, stream, or lake) where it is difficult to determine where the body of water ends and the wetlands begin.

The team at Cherry Ridge Consulting LLC agrees with the opinion of the Society of Wetland Scientists (as members ourselves) stating that this is a bad path forward for our environment and “would harm the federal government’s ability to combat pollution and flooding” (2023). This decision narrows the definition of wetlands to only those that adjoin another body of water and discount the importance of adjacent wetlands.

This decision was a devastating loss for the federal protection of wetlands and the EPA. While there is hope for Congress to rectify the situation, the power could shift individually to the states. This could cause issues for wetlands that share borders.

At Cherry Ridge, we strive daily to abide by government regulations relating to the environment and ensure your projects can be completed. We work every day to protect our wetlands and measure any impact development can have on our environment. This decision changes the definition of protected wetlands and can impact our climate, pollution, and waterways moving forward.

Environmental Protection Agency. (1972). Summary of the Clean Water Act. EPA.
Society of Wetland Scientists. (2023, May 26). SWS summary on Sackett v. US EPA.