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United States v. Saint Bernard Parish

ELR Citation: 14 ELR 20794
Nos. No. 83-3201, Section K, 589 F. Supp. 617/21 ERC 1950/(E.D. La., 06/26/1984)

The court holds that a district court has no jurisdiction to consider, in an action for civil penalties for violations of a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit, whether the water receiving the discharge was improperly classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as a "water of the United States," and further holds that the water, a Louisiana canal, is a water of the United States for purposes of the claims against defendant for discharging pollutants without a permit. Jurisdiction to review permit-related administrative action is delegated to the courts of appeals; since defendant Saint Bernard Parish admits to violating its permit, defending only on the ground that the canal is not a water of the United States, the court grants partial summary judgment to the United States as to liability for the permit violations. Defendant also admits to the discharges after the 1979 expiration of its discharge permit, defending on the same ground. Congress clearly intended to give the term "navigable waters" in the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA) the broadest possible constitutional interpretation. The court holds that the canal is a navigable water for FWPCA purposes on two alternative grounds: this canal supported fish and aquatic plant life before defendants' illegal discharges, and the destruction of its water quality could well have affected interstate commerce; and, the canal is a tributary of adjacent wetlands even though separated from them by a dike and draining into them only through pumping stations. The court therefore also grants partial summary judgment to the United States on the counts alleging discharges without a permit.

Counsel for Plaintiff
William Baity, Ass't U.S. Attorney
Hale Boggs Fed. Bldg., 500 Camp St., New Orleans LA 70130
(504) 589-2921

John C. Martin
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-4059

Counsel for Defendant
John F. Rowley, Parish District Attorney
34th Judicial Dist., P.O. Box 1295, Chalmette LA 70044
(504) 271-1811

Peter Arnow, Ass't Attorney General
7434 Perkins Rd., Suite C, Baton Rouge LA 70808
(504) 389-0443