A Limited Interest?
Layered Easement Issues
In 2010 the U.S. sued our client, alleging our client violated terms and conditions of a United States Forest Service easement containing numerous provisions affecting maintenance and use of 80 acres of the client's pasture and forest lands.
Both the U.S. Forest Service’s acquisition of the conservation and scenic easement, and the scenic area management designations governing the use of the client's property, were authorized under the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Act.
The United States amended its complaint in 2011 to include allegations that our client had unlawfully placed material in waters in violation of Section 404 of the federal Clean Water Act.
Facing the prospect of a long and costly trial, and in need of different counsel, the client engaged us and his prior law firm to both prepare for trial and pursue a meaningful settlement.
Charged with finding a way to settle a very contentious case and yet retain the client's ability to still pursue uses that remained strongly contested by the United States, we negotiated a 34-page consent decree that met both objectives.
Although still awaiting judicial approval, the decree (a) assures mitigation of the damages alleged under the federal Clean Water Act violations; (b) dramatically reduces the financial penalties initially sought by the United States for such violations; and (c) confirms a process allowing the clients to still pursue their intended uses of their property as consistent with restrictions promulgated under the Gorge Act.