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United States v. Sexton Cove Estates, Inc.

Citation: 5 ELR 20348
No. No. 74-1067-Civ.-WM, 389 F. Supp. 602/7 ERC 1502/(S.D. Fla., 02/06/1975)

In an action brought under the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, the court orders a developer who commenced canal building and modification without a Corps of Engineers permit to restore pre-existing canals to their original depth, plug and fill in those canals it has constructed, and replant the mangrove fringe along the banks of the restored canals. Man-made canals on private property become navigable waters of the United States and thus subject to the Act's permit requirements when connected to tidal waters. Once connected, such canals remain navigable waters, even if subsequently plugged at their seaward ends. The court also holds that a canal is a "structure" within the meaning of the statutory provision authorizing injunctive relief to prevent the construction or seek the removal of an unlawful structure. Neither equitable estoppel nor laches precludes the government from enforcing the statute by seeking such relief in the case at bar. The developer is enjoined from selling any property at the development site without the prior approval of the court until the mandated restoration has been accomplished.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Robert W. Rust U.S. Attorney
Lawrance B. Craig, III Asst. U.S. Attorney
Federal Building
51 S.W. First Avenue
Miami, Fla. 33130

Counsel for Defendant
Michael D. Sikes
Corlett, Merritt, Killiam & Mascaro
116 West Flagler Street
Miami, Fla. 33130