Borden Ranch Partnership v. Army Corps of Engineers

PETITIONER: Borden Ranch Partnership
RESPONDENT: Army Corps of Engineers
LOCATION: Dr. Nguyen's Office

DOCKET NO.: 01-1243
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 537 US 99 (2002)
ARGUED: Dec 10, 2002
DECIDED: Dec 16, 2002

ADVOCATES:
Jeffrey P. Minear - Department of Justice, argued the cause for the respondents
Timothy S. Bishop - Argued the cause for the petitioners

Facts of the case

In 1993, Angelo Tsakopoulos purchased the Borden Ranch, an 8348-acre ranch in California. Tsakopoulos planned to subdivide the land into parcels for cultivation as vineyards and orchards. Because a dense layer of material prevented water from reaching the depths necessary to cultivate vineyards or orchards, Tsakopoulos intended to "deep rip" the soil. Deep ripping has a dramatic effect on the character of a wetland area. The Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency informed Tsakopoulos that he was not to deep rip protected waters without a permit. Ultimately, the District Court found that Tsakopoulos had violated the Clean Water Act multiple times and imposed a substantial fine. The Court of Appeals affirmed in relevant part.

Question

Does deep plowing ranchland to plant deep-rooted crops constitute the "addition" of a "pollutant" from a "point source" so as to fall within the regulation of the Clean Water Act? Is deep plowing ranchland which is farmable in its natural state to plant deep-rooted crops statutorily exempt from regulation under the Act's exemption for any discharge from "normal farming...activities such as plowing?" Does the Act's civil penalty section authorize assessing the maximum daily penalty for each time a plow crosses a seasonal drainage feature, without regard to the number of days when such activity occurred?

Media for Borden Ranch Partnership v. Army Corps of Engineers

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 10, 2002 in Borden Ranch Partnership v. Army Corps of Engineers

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - December 16, 2002 in Borden Ranch Partnership v. Army Corps of Engineers

John Paul Stevens:

01-1243, Borden Ranch Partnership against the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is affirmed by an equally divided court.

Justice Kennedy took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.