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