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United States v. Martin

ELR Citation: 11 ELR 20997
Nos. Nos. 76-2342-1, 77-1783-1, 517 F. Supp. 211/(D.S.C., 06/01/1981)

Invoking the doctrine of equitable estoppel, the court refuses to require restoration of a pond built in violation of the Rivers and Harbors Act. With the assistance of the Soil Conservation Service (SCS), defendants built drainage ditches and a pond without obtaining a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers as required by the Rivers and Harbors Act. The Corps subsequently issued a cease and desist order and sought injunctive and restorative relief. Although there is some question whether the Corps has jurisdiction over the project, the court assumes jurisdiction but invokes the doctrine of equitable estoppel to deny relief. First, SCS employees failed to inform defendants of the permit requirement. Second, although the court does not condone defendants' action, it finds that the presence of the pond will not frustrate public policy since the project has not been shown to be detrimental to the environment and restoration is likely to be unsuccessful. Therefore, the court allows the continued existence of the pond subject to a reasonable management plan but rejects defendants' claims for reimbursement and damages.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Jack L. Marshall, Ass't U.S. Attorney
151 U.S. Cthse., P.O. Box 2266, Columbia SC 29202
(803) 765-5483

Counsel for Defendants
Paul H. Infinger
Dowling, Sanders, Dukes, Novit & Svalina
P.O. Drawer 1027, Beaufort SC 29902
(803) 524-4137