High court sympathetic to property owners in wetlands case


WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court seems likely to make it easier for private landowners to challenge the federal government’s designation of property as protected wetlands.

The justices heard arguments Wednesday in a case involving a Minnesota company that says it has no effective means to contest an Army Corps of Engineers decision that a peat bog is off-limits to mining under the Clean Water Act.

The Hawkes Company Inc. wants to challenge the decision in federal court. But the government says Hawkes must first go through a costly agency appeals process that could take years.

Most justices appeared sympathetic to the company.

Justice Stephen Breyer says the agency’s decision has legal consequences that can be reviewed in court. Chief Justice John Roberts says the decision seems final in practice.