I wrote a more recent story on this particular battle, after Johnson filed a lawsuit against the EPA via, who else? Pacific Legal Foundation.
update March 22
A story in a local news station provides both video and photos of the “little pond”.
That’s no pond, it’s a bloody lake. It has a dock. A dock.
This is a contrived controversy.
Fox just published a story about a poor blue collar in Wyoming, threatened with horrific fines for building an environmentally friendly little pond on his land.
Wyoming welder faces $75,000 a day in EPA fines for building pond on his property goes the headline, and I’m sure the folks at Pacific Legal Foundation are on a plane, right now, racing to the location in order to represent the family in a lawsuit against the EPA.
According to Fox:
All Andy Johnson wanted to do was build a stock pond on his sprawling eight-acre Wyoming farm. He and his wife Katie spent hours constructing it, filling it with crystal-clear water, and bringing in brook and brown trout, ducks and geese. It was a place where his horses could drink and graze, and a private playground for his three children.
But instead of enjoying the fruits of his labor, the Wyoming welder says he was harangued by the federal government, stuck in what he calls a petty power play by the Environmental Protection Agency. He claims the agency is now threatening him with civil and criminal penalties – including the threat of a $75,000-a-day fine.
That EPA…what a bully. Poor man was only building a little pond, providing water for local wildlife and a place for the kiddies to play.
The only problem is the story is as much fiction as fact. Two minutes is all it took to locate the EPA letter of violation. And the letter tells a different story.
According to the letter, the Army Corps of Engineers knew about this “little pond” in 2012 and contacted the Johnsons. From the violation:
On October 11,2012, the United States Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) conducted an inspection of the Site and confirmed that Respondent or persons acting on his behalf had discharged or allowed the discharge of approximately 12 cubic yards of dredged and fill material below the ordinary high water mark of Six Mile Creek during construction of a darn. The work resulted in filling an approximately 40-foot reach of the creek and inundation of an approximately 745-foot reach.
Dumping 12 cubic yards of fill material into a creek is what we call a “dam” back where I come from. Perhaps they call it something else in Wyoming.
The Corps contacted Johnson several times but received no response back. It turned the case over to the EPA for enforcement.
On May 30,2013, the EPA performed an inspection of the Site and verified that an approximately 40-foot reach of Six Mile Creek had been filled during the construction of a dam, impacting approximately 785 feet of the Six Mile Creek channel. The dam was observed to be composed of sand, gravel, clay, and concrete blocks.
I suspect that the Johnsons effort to fill the pond with “crystal clear waters” consisted primarily of running a backhoe in and dumping cement blocks on the creek.
The EPA also invited Johnson to contact its representatives, multiple times, but he ignored all communications. Eventually, the EPA issued the letter with the violation notice. Now Johnson is crying to his Republican Congressional leaders and Fox news about the sudden appearance of the big bad EPA, dumping down on this poor little land owner.
There’s a reason for laws preventing people from damming water sources such as creeks and rivers on their property—their actions impact on others. I suspect the Army Corps of Engineers found out about the “little pond” when impacted neighbors complained.
And once again, Fox has failed to do its job in its haste to cast the EPA in the worst possible light.
Google Map of the farm: