Feb 01, 2021

Agricultural Developer Agrees to Pay Clean Water Act Fines

A California agricultural developer has agreed to pay a civil penalty to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA).

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A California agricultural developer has agreed to pay a civil penalty to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA) on property near the Sacramento River in Tehama County, California.

The developer must also preserve streams and wetlands, effect mitigation, and be subject to a prohibitive injunction, according to the Department of Justice. Roger J. LaPant Jr. originally purchased the property in 2011 and sold it in 2012 to Duarte Nursery Inc. which sold it that same year to Goose Pond Ag Inc.  

Goose Pond’s activities on the property were the subject of a settlement announced by the Justice Department in September 2018. The settlement was approved by a federal judge in June 2019. Duarte’s activities on an adjoining site were the subject of a settlement agreement announced by the Justice Department in August 2017 and approved by a federal judge in December 2017, added the Department of Justice. 

“Today’s settlement involving the unpermitted filling of streams and wetlands, if approved by the court, will conclude the long-running Clean Water Act litigation involving these properties near the Sacramento River in Tehama County,” said Jonathan D. Brightbill, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “None of these defendants had traditionally farmed these lands, but instead attempted to profit commercially by acquiring and converting them to new uses in violation of the law."

LaPant will do the following: pay $250,000 in civil penalties; purchase $100,000 worth of compensatory mitigation credits; dedicate another 10 credits at a vernal pool conservation bank; effect long-term preservation streams, wetlands, and buffer areas on two sites; and be subject to a prohibition on certain new activities in waters or wetlands absent pre-clearance from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, according to the Department on Justice. LaPant’s obligations under the settlement cost approximately $1.2 million.

The agricultural development activities LaPant conducted during his brief ownership of the property included operating earthmoving equipment through at least 900 acres of the property, directly through streams and wetlands. These activities were conducted without a CWA dredge-or-fill permit. 

According to the Department of Justice, LaPant contributed to the destruction or significant degradation of streams and wetlands at the site.

Before LaPant purchased the site, he received information about the presence of federally protected streams and wetlands on the property. A copy of the proposed consent decree is available on the Justice Department website. 

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