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Leslie Salt Co. v. United States

Citation: 17 ELR 21006
No. Nos. C-85-8615-CAL, -86-4187-CAL, 660 F. Supp. 183/26 ERC 1150/(N.D. Cal., 04/24/1987) Jurisdiction

The court rules that where the Corps of Engineers' assertion of jurisdiction pursuant to § 404 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act is challenged in an action against the Corps or in an enforcement action brought by the Corps, the jurisdictional question shall be determined by the trial court rather than by the Corps. The court notes that the effect of this ruling is to give the trial court far more discretion concerning the jurisdictional issue than the court would have in merely reviewing, under the Administrative Procedure Act's arbitrary and capricious standard, a jurisdictional determination initially made by the Corps. The Corps does not provide full hearings, and the rights of landowners in Corps procedures are informal only. No statute indicates the proper forum for the resolution of a disputed question of the Corps' jurisdiction. Although there is conflicting case law on this issue, a number of cases support the conclusion that the trial court may properly decide the jurisdictional question. The court distinguishes various cases in which the landowners participated in the administrative procedures, the parties sought a permit from the Corps and did not contest jurisdiction, the suit was brought by third parties, the Corps had not yet acted, or the issue was the extent of the Corps' jurisdiction.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Edgar B. Washburn, John P. Yeager
Washburn & Kemp
144 Second St., San Francisco CA 94288
(415) 543-8131

Counsel for Defendants
Francis B. Boone, Ass't U.S. Attorney
450 Golden Gate Ave., San Francisco CA 94102
(415) 556-1126