The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a compliance order to Elam Construction and 4B Land & Livestock, LLC (owned by Scott and Sheila Brennise) for impacts to wetlands at a gravel mining site adjacent to the Yampa River near Craig, Colo. Elam Construction’s and 4B Land and Livestock’s actions were conducted without a required Clean Water Act permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps).
“EPA is requiring Elam Construction and 4B Land and Livestock to complete projects to compensate for unauthorized mining activities that affected wetlands along the Yampa River,” said Mike Gaydosh, EPA’s enforcement director in Denver. “Those taking actions that impact surface waters and wetlands must secure appropriate permits to protect water resources and the functions they provide.”
In October 2009, the Corps conducted an inspection at the gravel mining site and observed that multiple piles of excavated shale material, as well as a portion of a berm created to keep flood flows out of the gravel pit, had been placed within an area that contained delineated wetlands. The Corps determined the area of impacted wetlands as 0.78 acre.
A mining plan submitted to the Corps on behalf of the parties indicated the intent to mine gravel in the wetlands without the placement of any fill, thereby avoiding the need for a Clean Water Act permit. Subsequent communications from the Corps clearly stated that wetlands existed at the site and that the discharge of dredged or fill material during mining was likely. Elam Construction has had significant experience with the Clean Water Act and the Corps permitting program since 1980, including three prior permits and at least one known prior violation.
EPA’s order requires Elam Construction and 4B Land & Livestock to develop and implement a mitigation plan that compensates for impacts to wetlands. While specific projects have not been determined, EPA may consider proposals to restore, create, enhance or preserve wetlands. Prior to undertaking the work, the respondents must submit the mitigation plan to EPA for approval.
The impacted wetlands adjacent to the Yampa River provided various functions and values including aquatic and wildlife habitat, flood-flow attenuation and aesthetics.
A Clean Water Act permit is required before performing any work that results in discharges of pollutants into rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands. These alleged violations could have been avoided if Elam Construction or 4B Land & Livestock had applied for and obtained a permit from the Corps prior to discharging material into wetlands. Any person planning to do such work on Colorado’s western slope should contact the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Colorado West Regulatory Branch (400 Rood Avenue, Room 142, Grand Junction, CO 81501-2563; telephone: 970-243-1199) before beginning work to determine if a permit is needed.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: http://www.usace.army.mil/
For more information on the Clean Water Act, visit EPA's compliance web page: http://www.epa.gov/compliance/civil/cwa/index.html
For more information about the importance of wetlands in flood control and habitat conservation, visit: http://www.epa.gov/owow/wetlands/
Help EPA protect our nation's land, air and water by reporting violations: http://www.epa.gov/tips/