Busted. Supreme Court orders developer pay $3.6 million Suisun Bay cleanup fine

I hate to be cynical here but I gotta say it, anyway. Take a win anytime you can.

The Supreme Court is so busy destroying a woman’s right to choose that it is staying away from destroying landmark laws.

This Supreme Court is threatening to damage the environment as much as a woman’s right to have an abortion as it reviews Federal laws and regulations protecting land, water, curbing development, endangered species. Stay tuned.

Excerpted from San Francisco Chronicle 12.6.2021

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal Monday by a Bay Area developer who was fined $3.6 million and ordered to clean up landfill he deposited into Suisun Bay to make room for a duck-hunting club and a kite-surfing center on an island he owns.

John Sweeney bought the 39-acre island, Point Buckler, for $150,000 in 2011. The island, on the eastern edge of Grizzly Bay in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, had been a site for duck hunters until the 1990s.

The state Supreme Court denied review of the case.Sweeney then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, saying the bay conservation commission had denied him a fair hearing, allowing his accusers to write the decision in advance and affirming it after a session that lasted only 15 minutes.

“The penalties were intended to destroy Mr. Sweeney and the club,” Sweeney’s lawyer, Lawrence Bazel, said in a filing with the court.

The justices denied a hearing without comment Monday.

Sweeney rebuilt levees around the island, opened a kite-surfing center and announced plans to re-establish the club for duck hunters, whose prey swim in ponds maintained by the levees and tidal gates. In the process, he deposited 8,500 cubic yards of soil from trenches into the waters.

Suisun Bay II 12.6.2021.jpg

In 2015, the Bay Conservation and Development Commission and the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board said Sweeney had acted without the required permits and damaged marsh and tidal water habitat for waterfowl and fish, including endangered species of salmon and the Delta smelt.

Sweeney won a reprieve in December 2017 when Solano County Superior Court Judge Harry Kinnicutt found that he had actually improved conditions on Point Buckler. In a decision overturning the fines and cleanup order, Kinnicutt said the dirt that Sweeney used to repair the levees and left in the water was not “waste” but actually a valuable building material. He also said the agencies had acted with “an appearance of vindictiveness” against the developer.

But the state’s First District Court of Appeal said in February that there was no evidence to support Kinnicutt’s ruling.

Suisun Bay III 12.6.2021

The landfill deposited in state and federal waters has harmed habitat for waterfowl, blocked access to habitat for fish and endangered species, interfered with tidal flows to the interior of the island, killed tidal marsh vegetation, and caused “excessive salinity, turbidity and discoloration of the (island’s) interior waterways,” Justice Peter Siggins wrote in the appeals court’s 3-0 ruling.