Massachusetts cranberry growers ordered to restore 25 acres

BOSTON, Massachusetts, January 31, 2005 (ENS): A federal judge has ordered cranberry growers Charles and Genelda Johnson, Francis Vaner Johnson, and Johnson Cranberries Limited Partnership, to pay a civil penalty of $75,000 and restore and create over 25 acres of wetlands and streams in Carver, Massachusetts for Clean Water Act violations.

The Massachusetts Federal District Court found the Johnsons liable for multiple violations of the Clean Water Act when they filled and altered wetlands and other waters while constructing and expanding cranberry bogs at three of their properties in Carver.

The court imposed wetland restoration project will cost an estimated $1.1 million and must be completed in four years.

In terms of the acreage of wetlands filled and altered, this is one of the largest wetlands cases ever pursued by the New England regional office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

While the court found the Johnsons liable for filling more wetland acres than will be restored under the court order, the remedy reflects the most that the United States' financial experts estimated that the Johnsons could afford and still continue their farming business.

The resolution of this case is expected to restore these ecological functions, and ensure that the majority of cranberry growers, who do comply with the Clean Water Act requirements, will not be placed at a competitive disadvantage by those farmers who violate the rules, the EPA said.

The Johnsons failed to obtain permits from the Army Corps of Engineers, as is required before filling or altering wetlands. Because of the significant ecological impacts to the wetlands at the site, it is unlikely that a permit would have been issued for the bogs, as constructed.

The EPA presented extensive evidence to the court showing that the Johnson's violations resulted in significant environmental and ecological harm that warranted restoration and the payment of a penalty.

Wetlands provide valuable wildlife habitat, and wetlands help to protect the health and safety of people and their communities by preventing flooding from snow melts after storms and providing a natural filtration system for storm water runoff before it gets into our rivers, lakes and ponds.

Converting large areas of natural wetlands to commercial cranberry bogs can profoundly alter and impair wildlife habitat and floodwater retention, the EPA said. Restoration of harmed wetlands is an appropriate remedy in cases where these functions have been impaired, as restoring the integrity of the nation's waters is one of the main purposes of the Clean Water Act.

The EPA was assisted in prosecuting the case by the New England District of the Army Corps of Engineers, which is charged with issuing permits under the Clean Water Act for work in wetlands.

To find more information about EPA's wetland enforcement program visit: www.epa.gov/NE/enforcement/wetlands/index.html.

Information on wetlands permitting and enforcement is also available on the Army Corps of Engineers website at www.nae.usace.army.mil.

http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/jan2005/2005-01-31-09.asp#anchor7


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