The EPA is suing a 77-year-old farmer for fines that could reach into the millions for building a dike to protect his property from flooding.
The Register Guard newspaper reported that the agency is suing farmer William Case for fines of $37,500 a day that stretch back to September 2009.
Case told The Register Guard that he is afraid to do the math, but a tally by Off The Grid News shows the potential fines could reach $85.5 million. The Environmental Protection Agency’s lawsuit did not mention a specific amount, although by law the fine is $37,500 each day.
“I’m a farmer, not a banker,” Case, who farms on about 1,700 acres of land, told the newspaper.
The farmer’s ordeal began when he spent $250,000 to build a dike on his land along the North Santiam River near Albany, Oregon, in 2009. The purpose of the 800-foot dike was to protect his farmland from flooding. In previous years, flooding had washed away a 100 foot-by-800 foot section, Case told the newspaper.
EPA Sues Case
The EPA filed suit against Case in US District Court in Eugene, Oregon, alleging that he had violated the Clean Water Act. The agency contends Case violated the law by dumping fill into the river without a proper permit.
Case did not think he needed a permit and claimed that the state of Oregon and the US Army Corps of Engineers gave him verbal permission.
Case built the dike with about 40 tractor-trailer loads of rock, and then filled the rest in with nearby dirty, the newspaper reported. He says his project actually helped the river quality by stopping erosion.
Not The Only One
Unfortunately, Case is not alone. A Wyoming rancher named Andy Johnson is facing a similar lawsuit for building a stock pond on his own land. The EPA sued Johnson for Clean Water Act violations last year and also imposed fines of $37,500 a day.
“The EPA is clearly acting beyond its authority, because the Clean Water Act exempts stock ponds from any requirement for a federal permit,” Jonathan Wood, a staff attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation, which is representing Johnson, charged.
Johnson has attracted some high level support, including from US Senators David Vitter (R-Louisiana), John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming).
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