Oregon landowner settles over federal Clean Water Act violations

April 16, 2020
Consent Decree calls for farmer to restore the banks of the North Santiam River.

SEATTLE, WA, APRIL 16, 2020 -- The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have lodged a proposed Consent Decree in federal court that would settle a series of Clean Water Act violations with Mr. William Case, Bill Case Farms, Inc., and Case Family, LLC, of Albany, Oregon. If the court enters the Consent Decree as proposed, the defendants will restore riverbanks and wetlands along the North Santiam River, conserve approximately 50 acres along the North and South Santiam Rivers, and pay a $100,000 civil penalty.

Over a four-year period, Bill Case Farms discharged dredged or fill material along the south bank of the North Santiam River without obtaining the required Clean Water Act permits. The North Santiam River is designated as essential fish habitat for threatened or endangered Chinook and Coho salmon, Steelhead trout, as well as resident Rainbow and Cutthroat Trout and Oregon Chub.

The violations occurred at two locations. At the first location, Bill Case Farms recontoured the riverbank by dredging an 835-foot-long trench at the water’s edge and depositing native materials and riprap (large rocks) in the trench, creating an armored bank. To accomplish this work, Bill Case Farms deposited approximately 4,039 cubic yards of fill directly into the river.

At the second location, Bill Case Farms constructed an approximately 1,000-foot-long dike over a period of two years that blocked several side channels of the North Santiam River. Construction of this dike involved the discharge of 16,772 cubic yards of riprap and other material below the ordinary high-water mark of the river.

In addition to paying the civil penalty, Bill Case Farms will be required to perform the following restoration and mitigation work:

  • Site Restoration – Full restoration of the two violation sites (totaling approximately 1845 linear feet of riverbank). Work will include removal of the upstream and downstream revetment structures and revegetation of the impacted areas. The agreement also requires five years of site monitoring.
  • Additional restoration project – This restoration project will reconnect the downstream end of an oxbow on the South Santiam River and restore a native forest within the oxbow complex.
  • Preservation through Restrictive Covenant – Bill Case Farms will place a restrictive covenant on approximately 50 acres of ecologically valuable land that includes sloughs and wetlands along the North and South Santiam Rivers, including the revegetated oxbow/farm field complex.  

EPA's Clean Water Act Section 404 or wetlands enforcement program pursues legal actions against entities who conduct unauthorized activities (e.g., dredging, filling, grading without a permit) in waters of the United States. Working in partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies, EPA selects cases and coordinates field research, damage assessments and legal proceedings. Enforcement can be pursued via civil (judicial or administrative) actions or through criminal proceedings in conjunction with EPA’s Criminal Investigations Division.