V. THE DECLARATORY JUDGMENT

During the two and one-half years of litigation of the issue of the Corps' jurisdiction *399 over Riverside's property, the Corps declined to process an application for a permit to fill the area in question. The agency was precluded by regulation from acting on Riverside's application because the United States Attorney had initiated enforcement proceedings after it was discovered that Riverside was engaged in unauthorized filling. The Corps regulation provides:

"If the District Engineer refers a case to the local U.S. Attorney or if criminal and/or civil action is instituted against the responsible person for any unauthorized activity, the District Engineer shall not accept for processing any application for a Department of the Army permit until final disposition of the referral action and/or all judicial proceedings, including the payment of all prescribed penalties and fines and/or completion of all work ordered by the court. Thereafter, the District Engineer may accept an application for a permit; provided, that with respect to any judicial order requiring partial or total restoration of an area, the District Engineer, if so ordered by the court, shall supervise this restoration effort and may allow the responsible persons to apply for a permit for only that portion of the unauthorized activity for which restoration has not been so ordered." 33 C.F.R. 326.4(e) (1982) (current version as amended at 33 C.F.R. 326.3(c)(3) & n. 2 (1983)).

Riverside asked the District Court in the initial enforcement proceeding to issue a declaratory judgment declaring this regulation to be unconstitutional as a de facto taking of Riverside's property. In a memorandum opinion, Judge Kennedy held that the postponement of processing of Riverside's application for a permit under the regulation "effect[s] a quasi-taking of property unless and until a person relinquishes any right the person may have to engage in litigation with the Corps of Engineers." Opinion of the Court at 9. Moreover, Judge Kennedy held that the deferral was a sanction unauthorized by the section of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act which gives the Corps the authority to promulgate regulations to carry out its functions. Id.

Judge Kennedy interpreted the regulation as denying defendant "the right to litigate the constitutionality of a statute or regulation on peril of losing its rights to pursue its administrative adjudication remedies." See id.  Apparently, she understood the regulation to compel the defendant to choose between litigating his claim that the regulation effects an unconstitutional taking of his property, and proceeding with his application for an after-the- fact permit which, if granted, would enable him to continue with his development project.

Riverside's opposition to the regulation postponing the permit process cannot alter the fact that nothing in the regulation now adversely affects its interests. We construed the Corps wetlands definition narrowly and concluded that Riverside's property is not a wetland and that, therefore, the Corps has no jurisdiction over it. Riverside is now free to develop its land as it wishes. Moreover, the challenged regulation has since been amended to suggest a strong presumption in favor of processing applications for after-the-fact permits. See 33 C.F.R. 326.3 & n. 2 (district engineer shall accept application for after-the-fact permit for unauthorized filling unless state or local enforcement action is pending, and "[t]his exception to the general rule of accepting after-the-fact applications should be used on a limited basis, only for those cases which merit special treatment"). Therefore, the question is moot.

The problem before us clearly is not "capable of repetition, yet evading review." See Moore v. Ogilvie, 394 U.S. 814, 816, 89 S.Ct. 1493, 1494, 23 L.Ed.2d 1 (1969) (case concerning burden placed on nomination process for statewide office was not moot but was "capable of repetition, yet evading review," because same restriction on plaintiff's candidacy that had adversely affected him in 1968 could do so in 1972 election); International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union v. Boyd, 347 U.S. 222, 74 S.Ct. 447, 98 L.Ed. 650 (1954) (declaratory judgment vacated because questions of scope and constitutionality of legislation must not be decided "in advance of its immediate adverse effect in the context of a concrete case."). We should not pass unnecessarily on the constitutionality of the Corps regulation. The declaratory judgment of the District Court is therefore vacated and the claim dismissed.

*400 APPENDIX [FN5]


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