The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reached an agreement with Cherry County, Nebraska, and Richard Minor of Gordon, Nebraska, to resolve alleged violations of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA). Under an Administrative Compliance Order filed June 14, 2021, the parties will develop a plan to cease illegal discharges into the Snake River.
“EPA is encouraged that the parties in this case have agreed to take action to prevent unauthorized discharges of pollution into the Snake River,” said David Cozad, director, EPA Region 7 Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division. “The agreement will protect this important aquatic resource, as well as prevent further impacts to downstream property owners.”
According to EPA, in April 2020, Minor and Cherry County personnel excavated a drainage ditch on Minor’s property to alleviate flooding. The approximately 2.5-mile ditch connected to the Snake River. Within days of completing the ditch, rainfall events brought massive amounts of sand and sediment from and through the rapidly eroding ditch into the river.
An EPA inspection in September 2020 determined that approximately 1.6 million tons of sediment had flowed into the river, and that discharges would continue to occur until the confluence of the ditch and the river was cut off. Further, the parties completed the work without first obtaining the required CWA permits.
As part of the Administrative Compliance Order, Minor and Cherry County agreed to submit and implement a plan at the parties’ expense to cut off the confluence of the ditch and the Snake River and to install control structures to prevent further erosion and additional sediment deposits in the river.
Under the CWA, parties are prohibited from discharging pollutants, including sand and sediment, into water bodies unless they first obtain CWA permits.