IMPERIAL — TThe US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on June 2 announced a settlement with the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) of California over violations of the Clean Water Act related to pollution of local wetlands. Under the settlement, Imperial Irrigation District will pay a fine of $299,857 and provide mitigation measures to compensate for environmental damage.
“This enforcement action reflects EPA’s continued commitment to ensuring utilities like the Imperial Irrigation District follow federal laws and prevent pollution of wetlands,” said Martha Guzman, Southern Regional Administrator. -Western Pacific EPA. “Actions like this are critical to protecting our waterways and surrounding communities.”
On November 5, 2020, inspectors from the EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers inspected IID’s construction of drainage banks in the region and found that the activities were causing the sediment dumping on approximately 1 acre of wetlands. This landfill has also impacted around 20 acres of wetlands by cutting the connection to Morton Bay, which empties into the Salton Sea.
In addition to paying the penalty, the IID will develop a plan for the removal of the sediment in question and the restoration of the water connection to Morton Bay. If they are unable to restore the impacted site, the IID will have to restore 63 acres of wetlands to another location.
The Desert Review has contacted IID for comment.
“The IID recognizes the importance of environmental stewardship and compliance with the Clean Water Act. Throughout this process, the IID has responded to all requests from the EPA and we expect to be fully compliant with the rule,” said Robert Schettler, IID’s public information officer.
A top priority of the Clean Water Act is to restore and maintain the physical, chemical and biological integrity of the nation’s waters. A more specific federal goal is “No Net Loss” of wetlands by avoiding, then minimizing, and finally offsetting any impact on aquatic resources caused by the discharge of dredged or fill material into United States waters.
Wetlands protect and improve water quality, provide fish and wildlife habitat, store flood waters, and maintain surface water flow during dry periods. EPA works with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies to coordinate field investigations, damage assessments, and legal action against entities that conduct unauthorized activities (for example, dredging, filling , leveling without a permit) in United States waters.
EPA has proposed a Consent Agreement and Final Order and is accepting public comments until July 5, 2022. See Public Notice.