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EPA and landowner reach agreement to address impacts to Yellowstone River habitat

Sheffield Ranch and Fred Wacker to remedy environmental impacts associated with alleged Clean Water Act violations

04/09/2020
Contact Information: 
Laura Jenkins (jenkins.laura@epa.gov)
303-312-6256

BILLINGS, Mont. - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finalized an administrative order on consent with Sheffield Ranch Corp. and Fred Wacker resolving alleged violations of the Clean Water Act related to unpermitted construction, bank stabilization and discharges to the Yellowstone River near Hathaway in Rosebud County, Montana.

"With this action, EPA is helping to ensure the protection of one of the nation's great waterways, the Yellowstone River," said Suzanne Bohan, director of EPA Region 8's Enforcement & Compliance Assurance Division. "We appreciate Sheffield Ranch and Mr. Wacker's commitment to perform mitigation and restoration work to address the adverse impacts to the river."

 In June 2018, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks notified the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) that a segment of the Yellowstone River's bank had been stabilized without a multi-agency permit required to do work in Montana's waterways. Upon receipt of an application from Sheffield Ranch, submitted after the bank stabilization work had been completed, the Corps inspected the site and observed that material for bank stabilization had been placed in and along approximately 200 linear feet of the Yellowstone River without authorization from the Corps. The Corps referred the matter to EPA for enforcement.

Under the terms of the order, Sheffield Ranch and Mr. Wacker have agreed to submit and implement a restoration plan to remedy the impacts of the unauthorized activities and ensure the long-term stability of the riverbank. Sheffield Ranch and Mr. Wacker have also agreed to purchase 838.4 mitigation credits from the Lower Middle Yellowstone Mitigation Bank. Mitigation banking is a means to offset the ecological loss of a project constructed in waters of the U.S. by the restoration, creation, enhancement or preservation of wetlands, streams or other waters at a location other than the project site. In this case, the purchase of credits will contribute to the restoration and enhancement of a portion of approximately 63 acres of wetlands and over 45,000 linear feet of streams, securing additional actions to protect habitat along the river.

 The portions of the Yellowstone River disturbed by the unauthorized activities provide numerous functions and values including aquatic and wildlife habitat, runoff conveyance, groundwater recharge, recreation and aesthetics. The river also is habitat for pallid sturgeon, an endangered species. Placement of dredged or fill material into the Yellowstone River can have adverse impacts on fish and wildlife habitat and the plants and insects they rely on as food sources.

 Under the Clean Water Act, dredge and fill activities conducted in "waters of the U.S.," such as the Yellowstone River, and adjacent wetlands are subject to a permitting program operated by the Corps. The permitting process is intended to allow necessary work to occur, while ensuring it is completed in a manner that prevents and minimizes impacts to water quality and aquatic resources. Before performing any work in Montana that results in discharges of dredged or fill material into rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands, any person planning to do such work should contact the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Helena Regulatory Office (10 West 15th Street, Suite 2200, Helena, MT, 59626; telephone 406-441-1375; email Montana.Reg@usace.army.mil) to determine if a permit is needed.

For more information on the Clean Water Act, visit EPA's compliance web page: http://www.epa.gov/compliance/civil/cwa/index.html  

Help EPA protect our nation's land, air, and water by reporting violations: http://www.epa.gov/tips

For more information on Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/cwa-404/permit-program-uder-cwa-section-404