Richford, Vt. Dairy Farmers Pay Consequences for Filling 41 Acres of Wetlands
Release Date: 09/04/2008
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918_1017
(Boston, Mass. – Sept. 4, 2008) – The owners of the Richford, Vt. Pleasant Valley Farm, Mark and Amanda St. Pierre, will pay a significant penalty, restore damaged wetlands, and perform additional environmental projects under the terms of a settlement with EPA and the U.S. Dept. of Justice for converting 41 acres of wetlands to corn and hay production areas on their dairy farm.
An EPA investigation concluded that the dairy farmers filled slightly more than 40 acres of wetlands between 1998 and 2002, during the course of expanding forage acres to support their dairy herd. The St. Pierres did not seek or obtain environmental review of or permits for these actions, violating the federal Clean Water Act by illegally discharging dredged and fill material into approximately 41 acres of wetlands and a stream.
“Losing more than 40 acres of wetlands in New England is significant,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “Wetlands are incredibly productive and important ecological areas. All property owners can be good stewards of the land by following appropriate steps before altering wetlands, to ensure that these valuable areas are protected. “
Undisturbed wetlands provide many environmental benefits, including wildlife habitat, groundwater discharge and recharge areas, sediment and toxin removal and flood water storage. The wetlands filled were located in the watersheds of the Missisquoi and Pike Rivers, both of which flow into Lake Champlain. These wetlands likely helped stabilize stream banks, detained nutrients and sediments, filtered pollutants and helped absorb flood waters.
The St. Pierres’ violation was more than double the largest permitted fill in Vermont in almost fifteen years. Under the settlement with EPA and DOJ, the St. Pierres will pay a civil penalty, restore most of the damaged wetlands, restore additional areas as compensatory mitigation, and perform a supplemental environmental project. The combined value of the penalty restoration, compensatory mitigation, and supplemental environmental project exceeds $100,000.
The settlement requires complete restoration of approximately 29 acres of wetlands, while allowing the St. Pierres to retain approximately 12 acres of wetlands that had been converted to hay fields at several different sites in the course of squaring off existing hay fields and where the impacts of converting the wetlands were minimal. The St. Pierres must provide compensatory mitigation for the acreage that will not be restored, including restoration of wetlands – currently in corn production – within the floodplain of the Pike River.
Further, the supplemental project under the settlement will require the St. Pierres to restore approximately 9.4 acres of wetlands – currently in corn production and adjacent to the Missisquoi River – which are next to two of the sites filled by the St. Pierres. The settlement also requires these additional restored areas to be protected through a conservation easement.
More information:Enforcing wetlands requirements in New England (http://epa.gov/ne/enforcement/wetlands/index.html)