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
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
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