SALEM, Ore. (AP) — To settle a federal Clean Water Act lawsuit, an Oregon farmer must pay a $100,000 civil penalty, remove two rock embankments and convert a field into a forest.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency filed the complaint against farmer Bill Case of Albany, Oregon, four years ago, saying he’d unlawfully reinforced the banks of the North Santiam River to prevent erosion, The Capital Press reported.
The federal agency claimed that Case had created rock levees along the river in 2009, 2012 and 2013 without getting a Clean Water Act permit, which subjected him to penalties of up to $37,500 per day.
Case claimed the rock embankments were necessary to keep sediment from polluting the river and to prevent floodwaters from eventually eroding his field. Case argued that he’d relied on advice from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that the embankments wouldn’t fall under Clean Water Act jurisdiction as long as they were built outside the river.
However, in 2018, a federal judge ruled there was ample evidence that Case had broken the law by working below the river’s ordinary high water mark.
Attorneys for Case and the EPA have now filed a proposed consent decree in the U.S. District Court for Oregon under which the farmer has agreed to pay the federal government a $100,000 civil penalty.
Case said he’s been advised not to speak publicly about the case by his attorney, who couldn’t be reached for comment.
Kent Hanson, the federal government’s attorney, said the proposed consent decree will be published in the Federal Register and open for public comment before it can be finalized in court, as required in Clean Water Act enforcement cases.