In this case, two environmental advocacy organizations allege that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) by failing to adhere to technical guidance manuals when making a wetland determination. After filling and tiling drainage ditches, a dairy farm contacted the Corps to determine if the farmland and adjacent ditches were subject to the Clean Water Act (CWA). The Corps determined that, unlike the ditches, the farmland did not have signs of a wetland, but was a prior converted cropland not regulated by the CWA. 

Congress directs the Corps to use the Wetlands Delineation Manual to identify jurisdictional wetlands. The plaintiffs argue that the Corps did not rely on relevant factors set forth in the Wetlands Delineation Manual concerning an atypical situation. An atypical situation exists when there are significant alterations to one of the three wetland parameters. A significant alteration includes the construction of drainage systems.

If there is an atypical situation on farmland, the Wetlands Delineation Manual directs the Corps to assess whether the land could have wetland hydrology. The court found that the Corps did not follow the required technical guidance. For example, it did not consider the relevant factors listed in the guidance manuals to determine the hydrology of the land before the alterations or the impact of the dairy farm’s alterations. Additionally, there was no sufficient reason why the Corps deviated from its own guidance. The court held that the Corps determination was arbitrary and capricious and remanded the case for further consideration of the Corps jurisdiction over the farmland.

Hoosier Env't Council v. Nat. Prairie Indiana Farmland Holdings LLC, 2021 WL 4477152 (N.D. Ind. Sept. 29, 2021).