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Buccaneer Point Estates, Inc. v. United States

Citation: 14 ELR 20406
No. No. 82-5921, 729 F.2d 1297/20 ERC 2140/(11th Cir., 03/26/1984) Rev'd

The court holds that application of the Corps of Engineers' 1975 Federal Water Pollution Control Act §404 regulations to appellants' development would be retroactive and manifestly unjust. Appellants voluntarily delayed completion of their development pending a Corps ruling on §404's application to their land. Six months after the Corps told them that §404 did not apply to lands above the mean high-tide line, the Corps promulgated new, more inclusive jurisdictional regulations, which included appellants' property. The court rules that the government is not subject to estoppel when it acts in its sovereign capacity. However, the government may not retroactively apply regulations if manifest injustice would result. Because appellants' development would have been "grandfathered" under the old regulations but for appellants' good-faith delay, because appellants relied heavily and justifiably on the Corps' original ruling, and because compliance with the original ruling will satisfactorily protect the environment, the court holds that the balance of equities is against retroactive application of the regulations.

Counsel for Appellants
Kenneth L. Ryskamp
Goodwin, Ryskamp, Welcher & Carrier
25 W. Flagler St., No. 401, Miami FL 33130
(301) 379-8353

Counsel for Appellees
Kathleen P. Dewey, Edward J. Shawaker
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-2855

Before HILL and HATCHETT, Circuit Judges, and ALLGOOD*, District Judge.