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Regulators take aim at property rights

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Federal overreach and the unending growth of Washington’s power has been a real problem for decades. That may be a trite sta
tement these days with Washington now in firm control of Americans’ health care, but a real-world example from right here in New Mexico should give us all pause.
In 2005, Peter and Frankie Smith purchased 20 acres of property located 19 miles south of Santa Fe.
 The retired couple found much of the land in desperate need of maintenance, stating that when the property was first purchased, truckloads of garbage and debris littered the area.
During the cleaning process, the Smiths smoothed out a portion of an arroyo in order to safely remove the trash.
What may seem to be good stewardship of one’s land and an effort to “Keep America Beautiful” has gotten the Smith family into a very big fight with a very powerful, albeit largely-unknown in New Mexico, federal agency called  the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
 The agency, rather than being pleased with the cleanup effort, viewed it as a transgression, stating that the couple had violated the 1972 “Clean Water Act.”
The letter sent by the federal agency claims that the Smiths had violated the act by “dredging and filling a water of the United States.”


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