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EPA Reaches Settlement for Unauthorized Wetlands Destruction Along Des Moines River

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EPA seal(Lenexa, Kan., Feb. 23, 2021) – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the court approval of a settlement agreement with an Ottumwa, Iowa, man and his two companies for alleged violations of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA), including the illegal construction of a recreational vehicle campground in Ottumwa on the Des Moines River.

“The Clean Water Act seeks to protect the nation’s water resources,” said David Cozad, director of EPA Region 7’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division. “Placing unauthorized fill material into rivers and wetlands can degrade watershed health, create loss of wildlife habitat, and deprive downstream landowners and the public from the use and enjoyment of public waters.”

According to EPA, Russell Kirk and his companies, Ottumwa Northshore LLC and Breaking Gate LLC, filled in approximately 5 acres of protected wetlands and conducted unauthorized bank stabilization along approximately 2,000 feet of the Des Moines River without first obtaining a required CWA permit. EPA alleged that the defendants completed the work between 2013 and 2016 in order to build the campground.

After the defendants failed to cooperate with federal, state and local agencies to complete the work necessary to remedy the illegal discharges of dredged and fill materials at the campground, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a civil complaint in the Southern District of Iowa in October 2018.

As part of the settlement, which was filed with the court on Feb. 10, 2021, the defendants agreed to pay a $15,000 civil penalty and purchase nearly $230,000 in “mitigation bank” credits at a local wetland preserve. A mitigation bank is a wetland, stream, or other aquatic resource area that has been restored, established, enhanced or preserved for the purpose of providing compensation for unavoidable impacts to aquatic resources. The defendants also agreed to perform restoration work by removing unauthorized materials in wetlands and along the impacted riverbank, and to conserve and protect approximately 17 acres of regulated wetlands from future development on the defendants’ property.

Under the CWA, parties are prohibited from discharging fill material into water bodies, unless they first obtain a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. If parties place fill material into water bodies without a permit, the Corps may elect to refer an enforcement case to EPA.

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