Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook Cty. v. Army Corps of Engineers, 531 U.S. 159 (2001)

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OCTOBER TERM, 2000

Syllabus

SOLID WASTE AGENCY OF NORTHERN COOK COUNTY v. UNITED STATES ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS et al.

certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the seventh circuit

No. 99-1178. Argued October 31, 2000—Decided January 9, 2001

Petitioner, a consortium of suburban Chicago municipalities, selected as a solid waste disposal site an abandoned sand and gravel pit with excavation trenches that had evolved into permanent and seasonal ponds. Because the operation called for filling in some of the ponds, petitioner contacted federal respondents, including the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), to determine if a landfill permit was required under 404(a) of the Clean Water Act (CWA), which authorizes the Corps to issue permits allowing the discharge of dredged or fill material into "navigable waters." The CWA defines "navigable waters" as "the waters of the United States," 33 U. S. C. 1362(7), and the Corps' regulations define such waters to include intrastate waters, "the use, degradation or destruction of which could affect interstate or foreign commerce," 33 CFR 328.3(a)(3). In 1986, the Corps attempted to clarify its jurisdiction, stating, in what has been dubbed the "Migratory Bird Rule," that 404(a) extends to intrastate waters that, inter alia, provide habitat for migratory birds. 51 Fed. Reg. 41217. Asserting jurisdiction over the instant site pursuant to that Rule, the Corps refused to issue a 404(a) permit. When petitioner challenged the Corps' jurisdiction and the merits of the permit denial, the District Court granted respondents summary judgment on the jurisdictional issue. The Seventh Circuit held that Congress has authority under the Commerce Clause to regulate intrastate waters and that the Migratory Bird Rule is a reasonable interpretation of the CWA.

Held: Title 33 CFR 328.3(a)(3), as clarified and applied to petitioner's site pursuant to the Migratory Bird Rule, exceeds the authority granted to respondents under 404(a) of the CWA. Pp. 166-174.

(a) In United States v. Riverside Bayview Homes, Inc., 474 U. S. 121, this Court held that the Corps had 404(a) jurisdiction over wetlands adjacent to a navigable waterway, noting that the term "navigable" is of "limited import" and that Congress evidenced its intent to "regulate at least some waters that would not be deemed 'navigable' under [that term's] classical understanding," id., at 133. But that holding was based in large measure upon Congress' unequivocal acquiescence to, and

159

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