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Out of sight is not out of reach.

The NJ Supreme Court ruled today that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has the right to inspect private property covered by the state’s Wetlands Protection Act when they have grounds to suspect a violation has occurred.

With conditions.

Via Enviropoliticsblog.blogspot.com:

NJ’s top court rules on DEP access to private property

and NJSpotlight.com’s Tom Johnson:

State’s Top Court Curbs How Far DEP Can Go With Wetland Inspections

This settles years of litigation that had bounced up to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court declined to hear the case and bounced it back to NJ’s top court.

The homeowners are required to pay the levied fine. As well, they must repair the wetlands they illegally filled in on their property. Going forward, DEP officials will need to notify property owners before inspections.

In our post-Sandy world, this is an important decision about how NJ citizens need to balance the rights of property owners versus the rights of everyone else.