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EPA orders Arizona property owner to remove illegal fill from Virgin River

Release Date: 12/13/2006
Contact Information: Wendy Chavez, 415/947-4248, chavez.wendy@epa.gov

(San Francisco, Calif. -- 12/13/2006) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently ordered Littlefield, Ariz. resident Dan Reber to remove an earthen dam that he built across a portion of the Virgin River located on his property without a federal permit, a violation of the Clean Water Act.

The EPA also required the property owner to immediately stop discharging dredged and fill materials into the river and to develop a restoration plan for the site.

“Unauthorized filling of waterways and damming of open waters can have serious environmental consequences,” said Alexis Strauss, the EPA’s Water Division director for the Pacific Southwest region. “The Virgin River supports a very diverse number of bird populations, including two endangered species, and is critical habitat for two endangered species of fish. The EPA’s action underscores our commitment to protecting this very important water resource.”

From January to April 2005, the Army Corps of Engineers received calls and written complaints stating that Reber was illegally constructing a dam across the Virgin River, which adversely altered the river’s natural flow pattern and characteristics, increasing the potential for bank erosion. At the request of the Army Corps of Engineers, the EPA inspected the site in October and confirmed that Reber constructed the earthen dam with a bulldozer without an Army Corps of Engineers permit.

The Virgin River, which courses through Reber’s property, is an interstate river. Its headwaters are found in Utah, and the Virgin continues through Arizona before it joins Lake Mead in Nevada. It connects the Great Basin region to the Colorado Plateau, and the Mohave Desert to the Sonoran Desert ecosystems. The Virgin River and its riparian zone is a uniquely rich area for biodiversity due to its location at the intersection of these bioregions.

The Clean Water Act prohibits the placement of dredged or fill materials into wetlands, rivers, streams and other waters of the United States without a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. For more information on the EPA’s permit program, visit: http://www.epa.gov/region09/water/wetlands/index.html.

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