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Idaho couple heads to Supreme Court over wetlands battle

Jessica Robinson
Northwest News Network
Chantell and Mike Sackett of Priest River, Idaho, were ordered to halt work on their home because the EPA says the plot is part of a wetland.

A north Idaho couple is in the chambers of the U.S. Supreme Court Monday for a case that could affect environmental regulation across the country.

The nine justices are hearing oral arguments in a case Mike and Chantell Sackett brought against the EPA over the couple’s still un-built home.

The case involves less than an acre of land near the shores of Priest Lake in the Idaho panhandle, but it has sweeping implications for how the government enforces clean water laws.

Wetland or not?

The fight boils down to this: the Environmental Protection Agency says the Sacketts' plot is in a wetland. The Sacketts argue it's not, but under the existing process, they say they don’t have the chance to prove it.

Mike Sackett says now that the morning of the Supreme Court case has arrived, “I'm not nervous on whether or not we're going to win, 'cause I believe we are. Or, we sure as heck wouldn't have gone as far as we have."

"But, going in front of nine ... nine of the most powerful judges in the world right now is not something that anybody wants to do every day of the week.”

The Sacketts have received briefs in support from real estate developers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, General Electric and 10 states.

But environmentalists say a ruling in favor of the Idaho couple could hamstring federal and state agencies that enforce laws intended to protect clean water and public health.

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Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network

Inland Northwest Correspondent Jessica Robinson reports from the Northwest News Network's bureau in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. From the politics of wolves to mining regulation to small town gay rights movements, Jessica covers the economic, demographic and environmental trends that are shaping places east of the Cascades.
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