The Backstory: Priest Lake Couple Battles The EPA Over Property Rights
PRIEST LAKE, Idaho – In November of 2007 officials from the Environmental Protection Agency told Mike and Chantelle Sackett they violated the Clean Water Act by filling in their Priest Lake property without first obtaining a permit because their property is on a federal wetland. The EPA issued a compliance order requiring the Sacketts to remove the fill material and restore the land to its original condition. The Sacketts say they were completely blind sided.
“I started going around and trying to do some background work,” said Chantelle Sackett. “And I figured out there is nothing disclosed anywhere that it is a wetlands, except what they say that it’s in a wetland inventory.”
The Sacketts don’t think the EPA has proper jurisdiction over their property and would like to state their case to the EPA as to why their property shouldn’t be considered a wetland. They filed a lawsuit against the EPA to force them to hear their case in court. In September the Ninth Circuit Court ruled in favor of the EPA citing that the Clean Water Act doesn’t require the EPA to give judicial review on their compliance orders.
“It’s like these people are ego-driven to make a point of like we have control of your property, you can’t do anything with it,” said Mike Sackett.
The Sacketts could file for a permit that would cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars. They say that would cost more than the land is worth. Now they are stuck with a piece of land that they can’t do anything with and continue to rack up thousands of dollars in fines as they try to fight a legal battle with the federal government.
“They’re taking advantage of a situation. You get bullied in and have no control,” said Mike Sackett.
EPA officials have been unable to be contacted to comment on this story. The Sacketts are now appealing the ninth circuit court’s decision. They say they will fight this all the way to the Supreme Court to get their voice heard.