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Federal Jury Finds that Massachusetts Cranberry Growers’ Filling Wetlands was Subject to Clean Water Act

Release Date: 04/27/2011
Contact Information: U.S. Dept. of Justice, (202) 514-2007 EPA, David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

WASHINGTON – A federal jury this week found that the Clean Water Act applied to the filling of wetlands and other waters at two properties in Carver, Mass., owned by Charles Johnson, Genelda Johnson, Francis Vaner (“Van”) Johnson, and Johnson Cranberries Limited Partnership (the Johnsons), announced Assistant Attorney General Ignacia S. Moreno of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz and EPA Regional Administer H. Curtis Spalding.

The Johnsons filled and altered approximately 46.1 acres of wetlands and other waters in order to construct cranberry bogs and associated structures.

The suit was originally brought by the United States in 1999 at the request of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enforce a provision of the Clean Water Act which prohibits the discharge of dredged and fill material into waters of the United States, which include certain wetlands, without first obtaining a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

In 2004, the U.S. District Court ruled that the Johnsons had filled the wetlands and other waters without obtaining a permit.  After two appeals and a change in law resulting from a 2006 Supreme Court ruling, the case was given to a jury to decide whether the Clean Water Act applied to the wetlands and other waters at the Johnson properties under new standards set out by the Supreme Court’s 2006 ruling in Rapanos v. United States. On Monday, April 25, 2011, the jury upheld the government’s assertion of jurisdiction.

The prosecution of the case was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney George B. Henderson of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Massachusetts, Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division Attorney Jered J. Lindsay, with assistance from EPA.

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