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Federal Court Orders Cranberry Growers To Restore 25 Acres of Wetlands and Pay $75,000 For Violations

Release Date: 01/27/2005
Contact Information:

Contact: Sheryl Rosner, EPA Office of Public Affairs, (617) 918-1865

For Immediate Release: January 27, 2005; Release # sr050106

BOSTON -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that a federal judge has ordered Carver, Mass. cranberry growers Charles and Genelda Johnson, Francis Vaner Johnson, and Johnson Cranberries Limited Partnership, to pay a civil penalty of $75,000 and restore and create over 25 acres of wetlands and streams for Clean Water Act violations. The court-imposed wetland restoration project will cost an estimated $1.1 million and must be completed in four years.

The announcement follows an earlier judgment by the federal District Court, for the District of Massachusetts, that found the Johnsons liable for multiple violations of the Clean Water Act when they filled and altered wetlands and other waters while constructing and expanding cranberry bogs at three of their properties in Carver, Mass. The Johnsons failed to obtain permits from the Army Corps of Engineers, as is required before filling or altering wetlands. Because of the significant ecological impacts to the wetlands at the site, it is unlikely that a permit would have been issued for the bogs, as constructed.

This is one of the largest wetlands cases ever pursued by EPA's New England regional office, in terms of the acres of wetlands filled and altered. While the court found the Johnsons liable for filling more wetland acres than will be restored under the court's order, the remedy reflects the most that the United States' financial experts estimated that the Johnsons could afford and still continue their farming business.

The Johnson's cranberry bog construction and associated activities destroyed existing natural wetlands and streams and severely diminished their ecological functions. The resolution of this case will not only restore these ecological functions, but will ensure that the majority of cranberry growers, who do comply with the Clean Water Act requirements, will not be placed at a competitive disadvantage by those farmers who violate the rules.

EPA presented extensive evidence to the court showing that the Defendants' violations resulted in significant environmental and ecological harm that warranted restoration and the payment of a penalty. Wetlands provide valuable wildlife habitat -- offering breeding and feeding grounds for a broad array of mammals, birds and other wildlife. Wetlands help to protect the health and safety of people and their communities by preventing flooding from snow melts after storms and providing a natural filtration system for stormwater runoff before it gets into our rivers, lakes and ponds. Converting large areas of natural wetlands to commercial cranberry bogs can profoundly alter and impair wildlife habitat and floodwater retention. Restoration of harmed wetlands is an appropriate remedy in cases where these functions have been impaired, as restoring the integrity of the nation's waters is one of the main purposes of the Clean Water Act.

EPA was assisted on the case by the New England District of the Army Corps of Engineers, which is charged with issuing permits under the Clean Water Act for work in wetlands. As part of the Corps' wetlands enforcement program, they provide technical support in the development of wetland enforcement cases. The Corps, along with EPA and state agencies, also provides technical support to farmers to help them comply with wetlands law and have made great strides in encouraging farmers to meet with the agencies to ensure they obtain the proper federal permits before constructing or expanding bogs in wetlands.

To find more information about EPA's wetland enforcement program visit: Information on wetlands permitting and enforcement is also available on the Army Corps of Engineers website at icon for EPA disclaimer.

Related Information:
Clean Water Act