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EPA Orders Vermont Farmer to Restore Damaged Wetlands

Release Date: 12/03/2010
Contact Information: Paula Ballentine, 617-918-1027

(Boston, Mass. – Dec. 3, 2010) - A Vermont farmer has been ordered to restore about three acres of freshwater wetlands in Swanton, Vt. that he altered in order to expand a corn field.

According to EPA’s complaint, Germain R. Bourdeau, the farmer, began in 2006 to clear, grade, fill and generally alter wetlands at his farm on County Road. Bourdeau, whose Pleasant Acres Farms business also includes fields in New York and Vermont, failed to obtain a federal permit under the federal Clean Water Act authorizing the discharges of dredged and fill material into the wetlands. According to the law, Bourdeau was required to get this federal permit from the Army Corps of Engineers.

According to the order issued recently by EPA’s New England office, Bourdeau must restore the disturbed wetlands to their previous state. The order also requires Bourdeau to, among other things, hire an experienced wetlands scientist to prepare a restoration plan for approval by EPA and the Corps, backfill a drainage ditch, remove any existing drainage structures, recreate the affected area’s topography, and plant and seed the area with shrubs and saplings. Bourdeau also must monitor the progress of the restoration plan for five years. The order prohibits Bourdeau from discharging any more dredged and/or fill material into nearby waters unless it is authorized by a valid permit issued by the Corps.

Wetlands provide large volumes of food that attract many animal species. Those animals use wetlands for part of, or all of, their life-cycle. Dead plant leaves and stems break down in the water to form organic material, which feeds many small aquatic insects and small fish that are food for larger predatory fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals. The wetlands are located adjacent to waterways that flow into Lake Champlain.

In addition to providing valuable wildlife habitat, wetlands also help to protect the health and safety of people and their communities. Wetlands filter and clean water by trapping sediments and removing pollutants. Wetlands also provide buffers against floods as they store enormous amounts of flood water. Wetlands store and slowly release water over time, helping to maintain water flow in streams, especially during dry periods.

More information: Enforcing wetlands requirements in New England (epa.gov/ne/enforcement/wetlands)