When Mike and Chantell Sackett paid $23,000 for a lot near the banks of Priest Lake in northern Idaho in 2005, they thought they were buying the site for a picturesque new home. They got a lot more: a long feud with the Environmental Protection Agency and now a Supreme Court case that could bolster the rights of landowners facing costly demands from the federal government.
Four years ago the Sacketts were filling in their lot with dirt and rock, preparing to build a simple three-bedroom home in a neighborhood where other houses have stood for years. Then three federal officials showed up and demanded they stop construction. The agency claimed the .63-acre lot was a wetland, protected under the Clean Water Act.