IMPERIAL, Calif. (June 2, 2022) – Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a settlement with California’s Imperial Irrigation District (IID) for violations of the Clean Water Act related to polluting of local wetlands. Under the settlement, Imperial Irrigation District will pay a $299,857 penalty and provide mitigation to offset the harm to the environment.
“This enforcement action reflects EPA’s continued commitment to ensuring public utilities like Imperial Irrigation District comply with federal laws and prevent pollution of wetlands,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman. “Actions like this are key to protecting our waterways and surrounding communities.”
On November 5, 2020, inspectors from EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers inspected IID’s construction of drain banks in the area and found that activities resulted in the discharge of sediment to approximately 1 acre of wetlands. This discharge also impacted approximately 20 acres of wetlands by severing the connection with Morton Bay, which drains to the Salton Sea.
In addition to paying the penalty, 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, IID would need to reestablish 63 acres of wetlands at an alternative location.
An overarching 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 first avoiding, then minimizing, and finally compensating for any impacts to aquatic resources caused by the discharge of dredge or fill material into waters of the United States.
Wetlands protect and improve water quality, provide fish and wildlife habitats, store floodwaters, and maintain surface water flow during dry periods. EPA works with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies to coordinate field research, damage assessments, and legal proceedings against entities who conduct unauthorized activities (e.g., dredging, filling, grading without a permit) in waters of the United States.
EPA has proposed a Consent Agreement and Final Order and is accepting public comment through July 5, 2022. View the public notice.