Monday, August 1, 2016

EPA Loses one Pond Prosecution but Sends another Pond Builder to Federal Prison

  Wasn't too long ago that Andy Johnson of Wyoming won his case against the EPA over the farm pond he built.    The stock pond was declared illegal by the EPA and Johnson was threatened with finds of $37,500 per day till it was removed.  Well the EPA settled that case and the pond is still there.

But that was one of dozens of cases where the EPA and various federal agencies are cracking down on land owners and mineral lease owners all across the west.   Joe Roberson of Basin Montana had a different outcome.  Joe had build a few ground water ponds, not in a stream, but built to capture water flowing off a hill and storing the water for stock use and for fire fighting.  They own 200 acres in the mountains and have a patented mining claim.  One of their sources of income is a very large Freightliner water tender, an enormous water truck that is used to support fire fighting in the area.

Joe's first scrapes with the Forestry Service came when he repaired the road leading to his private property.  Agenda 21 is the official game plan of the Federal government and anything that allows rural homesteaders to stay on or develop the land they own is frowned upon.  Joe's stock ponds are about one tenth of an acre, around 4500 feet, but Joe has been convicted of discharging pollutants into the Jefferson River despite the river being 60 miles away.
The first trial ended in a hung jury after the federally funded public defender refused to call the expert witnesses

The first trial was held last year and ended in a hung jury. It would probably have concluded in favor of Mr. Robertson had the federal defender presented all of the evidence. Yet, the defense, Michael Donahoe, refused to call any expert witnesses or use the environmental impact report that said the ponds did not violate the law as there was no stream from the Robertson pond to any tributary that might flow into the Jefferson River.  Instead the defense attorney chose to rely upon the EPA report, the same EPA that was prosecuting his client!   A second report done by Kagel Environmental LLC said that the land was improved by the ponds and could not pollute any streams or rivers.

This is murky legal territory.   The language used by the EPA is that any watershed that might eventually flow into a stream that is navigable leads to EPA regulation of that watershed.  As in a single drop of rain falls and eventually winds up in a river.   The EPA has seized upon a comment by Justice Kennedy in a decision where the majority ruled that wetlands and intermittent streams were not regulated by the EPA.

Worse was after the first hung jury trail the plaintiffs were asked to travel long distance to meet at the office of their federally  funded public defender and upon returning they caught two EPA agents trying to drain one of their ponds in an attempt to see if the water would flow the 60 miles  to the Jefferson River.  The second trial ended in a conviction for discharging pollution into the Jefferson River and earned a 15 year prison sentence and about $130,000 in fines.  The 77 year old disabled Navy veteran now faces life in prison and forfeiture of his property.

It wasn't that long ago that the federal government actually funded watershed projects.  If you had suitable land the feds would pay a large part of the construction cost for huge watershed lakes that were intended to trap millions of gallons of rain water and slowly release the excess through a spillway.  In return the land owner had to allow people to fish in the lake.  Small ponds could be built too, anything to slow down the torrent of rain water that caused the rivers to flood downstream.  In fact, the Soil and Water Conservation Service still funds these watershed ponds and lakes.  Oklahoma has over 2,000 of these ponds and lakes.

What this is really about is mining claims.  They are privately owned and the feds want them back.  It is no different with the Bundy ranch or the Hammonds up in Oregon.  The goal is to drive people from the land and into the cities where it is cheaper to provide services and easier to control everyone.