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Ranch owners to pay $1.1 million for destroying vernal pools

Tim Hearden

Capital Press

Ranch owners near Red Bluff, Calif., agreed to pay out $1.1 million in a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency after allegedly destroying wetlands on their property.

Capital Press

RED BLUFF, Calif. — Ranch owners here who were accused of destroying wetlands on their property have agreed to pay $1.1 million in a legal settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Anchordoguy and Co., which owns and operates the 1,036-acre Anchordoguy Ranch south of here, will pay $795,000 for wetlands preservation and $300,000 in penalties for allegedly destroying 80 acres of vernal pool wetlands and damaging two acres of a creek that crosses the ranch, according to an EPA news release.

Between 2008 and 2010, the ranchers deep-ripped 872 acres of the ranch to make room for orchards without obtaining a needed Clean Water Act permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the EPA asserts.

“California’s vernal pools are home to native plants and animals found nowhere else on earth, and we’ve lost more than 90 percent over the last century,” EPA regional administrator Jared Blumenfeld said in a statement. “They deserve our protection as sentinels of drought and climate change, and vital resources for the state’s biodiversity and the Pacific migratory bird flyway.”

Agency spokeswoman Suzanne Skadowski declined to comment further about the case, which was referred to the EPA by the Army Corps. Matt Anchordoguy, the company’s farm manager, could not immediately be reached for comment.

The settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.

Under the agreement, the ranch owners will offset ecological losses of the destroyed vernal pool wetlands and streams by giving $795,000 to the Nature Conservancy to preserve vernal pool and salmon habitats in the Sacramento River watershed, the EPA’s release explains.

The funding will include the purchase of a conservation easement on the 515-acre Foor Ranch, a unique property connected to the vernal pool-rich Vina Plains preserve, according to the release.

Vernal pools are shallow depressions in impermeable subsoil that fill with water during the rainy season, providing habitat to endangered and threatened fairy shrimp and native and migratory birds, according to the EPA.

Online

Proposed legal settlement: http://www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html



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