The EPA is threatening to fine a Wyoming couple $75,000 for building a pond on their own property. Andy and Katie Johnson designed the pond as a watering hole for their cattle. The Environmental Protection Agency claims the pond violated Clean Water Act dictates.
Katie and Andy Johnson thought that they had filed all the paperwork necessary to garner the permissions now required to build or dig on your own land in the United States. The small Six Mile Creek runs through the Fort Bridger area property. The Wyoming State Engineer’s Office issued the Johnson’s a permit in early April which said, “All of the legal requirements of the State Engineer’s Office, that were your responsibility, have been satisfied for the Johnson Stock Reservoir.”
Like most reasonable folks, the Wyoming couple felt with a permit in hand, they were free to move along with their project and create the watering hole for their cattle. However, the EPA apparently saw the matter differently. The federal agency sent Katie and Andy Johnson a notice informing them they had violated the Clean Water Act, a misdeed which carried thousands of dollars in penalties and fines.
Andy Johnson had this to say about his battle with the EPA:
“I believe that the EPA does need to regulate industry and the bigger projects. But my little pristine stock pond, I believe, is a waste of our taxpayer money for them to come after me. It’s a waste of my time, it’s a waste of my money and we’re going to fight it.”
The EPA notice to the Wyoming couple claimed that during the building of the pond the Johnson’s had “discharged of pollutants [i.e. dredged or fill material] into the waters of the United States.” They were also cited for not getting a permit to build a dam and neglecting to get another permit from the Army Corps of Engineers.
Andy Johnson told Fox News that there has been no pollution generated due to the building of the pond. He called the EPA’s stance that the Clean Water Act has been violated nothing more than an assumption. “There’s been no soil samples done, there’s been no water samples done,” he added. The Wyoming couple paid to have samples taken from their pond. The test results reportedly revealed that the water in the pond was cleaner than the water entering into it.
The couple has referred to the cattle pond as a “little irrigation canal.” Andy and Katie said that bald eagles, moose, blue herons, ducks, and geese all now frequent the watering hole. There was reportedly no such animal activity before.
The EPA contends that since Six Mile Creek runs into Black Forks River, which runs into Green River, the pond impacts a “navigable, interstate waterway in the United States.” Andy maintains that there is no connection to the river from his pond because Six Mile Creek has long been diverted about 300 yards away from his property due to a man-made irrigation canal.
The Wyoming couple is planning to fight the EPA and have received thousands of supportive phone calls from landowners around the nation. Some people feel the EPA is engaging in strong-arm tactics reminiscent of the BLM controversies in Nevada, Texas, Utah, and most recently New Mexico. Other supporters of the Johnson’s feel that the Clean Water Act dispute could be part of an Agenda 21 initiative.
What do you think about the Wyoming pond property rights and Clean Water Act battle?
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