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GA Wins in the Northwest

Seaplane association reimbursed for legal expenses in successful court fight

RV-7 at Waldo Lake
An RV-7 on floats moored on Waldo Lake, Oregon.

November 3, 2010 — The U.S. Forest Service has agreed to pay the Columbia Seaplane Pilots Association $25,000 to cover legal fees incurred in CSPA’s successful defense in United States District Court of seaplanes’ rights to use Oregon’s Waldo Lake. The court, calling the Forest Service’s attempt to prevent seaplanes from operating there “arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion,” ruled that the federal agency has no legal authority to regulate seaplanes on Waldo Lake, located in the southwestern part of the state.

The CSPA petitioned to be reimbursed for legal expenses under the U.S. Administrative Procedure Act, which allows non-profit groups to do so if they prevail in court. The Forest Service had attempted to adopt a plan for Waldo Lake prohibiting seaplanes from operating there, but CSPA argued that there was no credible reason for such action. CSPA also contended the lake was needed for the purpose of interstate travel by seaplanes, protected under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause. For 50 years seaplanes have used Waldo Lake as an important available stop when traveling cross-country along the route of Seattle-Portland-Eugene-Klamath Falls-Shasta-San Francisco. In addition, pilots occasionally landed at the lake for recreational uses.

“We believe the Court’s ruling confirms that seaplanes are a vital means of travel and commerce, and that reasonable and safe use of seaplanes in the Northwest should not be artificially restricted,” said Aron Faegre, CSPA president. “We hope that other public agencies will recognize the importance of seaplane travel and continue to allow free and open access for our pilots.”

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