(CN) – A dam operator missed its chance to challenge conditions imposed on a renewed hydropower license, the 7th Circuit ruled. “That delay lies on the company’s own doorstep,” Chief Judge Easterbrook wrote.
The Wisconsin Valley Improvement Co. operates dams and other river improvements in or near the Wisconsin River.
The U.S. Forest Service asked the commission to condition the company’s license renewal on steps that would prevent flooding of federally owned land.
The company claimed it enjoyed “flowage easements” over the land based on its history of use, making the conditions unnecessary and inappropriate.
Nonetheless, the commission imposed the requested conditions.
“The company had 12 years to negotiate for written easements or to file suit – as the Forest Service invited it to do,” Easterbrook explained. “For 12 years and 4 months it did neither.”
The company countered that the clock does not start running until the United States uses the land.
Easterbrook called this argument “incompatible” with the law.
“Someone who wants a legal right to use land owned by the United States must act to vindicate the claim; the United States need not evict the interloper by force.”