Supreme Court sides with ARTBA in Clean Water Act case

Once something is considered “navigable” it is under federal control and subject to EPA and Army Corps of Engineers

Law News ARTBA February 24, 2012
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All nine justices on the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) and refused to widen the scope of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA). In PPL Montana, LLC v. Montana, the Court Feb. 22 unanimously declined to expand the definition of what is considered “navigable” under federal law. The ruling removes a road block that could have needlessly delayed transportation improvements.


ARTBA, the only transportation construction association involved in the case, joined with eight other industry associations in filing a brief urging the Court to overturn a lower court holding that the entire span of three rivers in Montana was “navigable” because certain remote sections are used for recreational purposes.


For purposes of transportation development, once something is considered “navigable” it is under federal control and subject to the permitting authority of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers. An expanded definition of “navigability” could have resulted in a scenario where the EPA and Corps would have the option of exerting jurisdiction over roadside ditches, potentially adding years to the already expansive review and approval process for transportation infrastructure projects that are needed for increased mobility and improved safety.


The full text of the association’s brief can be found in the “current advocacy efforts” section of

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