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U.S. EPA settles wetlands case against Le Grand farmer

Release Date: 09/07/2006
Contact Information: Lisa Fasano 415-947-4307

SAN FRANCISCO (9/7/06) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has recently settled a case with Josh Ringeisen Accel Custom Farming for wetlands violations on his 238-acre agricultural property in Le Grand, Merced County, Calif.

In the settlement, Mr. Ringeisen has agreed to preserve 3.16 acres of vernal pools, swales, and associated drainages, and will create and preserve an additional 4.96 acres of wetlands on the property.

"Vernal pools and associated wetlands are a valuable natural resource in Merced and throughout California, providing feeding grounds to migratory birds and wildlife, supporting specialized plant and animal populations, moderating seasonal flooding and maintaining water quality" said Alexis Strauss, Water Division Director for the EPA's Pacific Southwest region. "Our action will ensure this environmental damage is mitigated."

In late 2004 through early 2005, Mr. Ringeisen conducted deep-ripping operations on 93 acres of his property in order to convert grazing land to an almond orchard. On February 8, 2005, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a cease and desist order to Mr. Ringeisen with which he complied.

During the deep ripping, natural drainages were destroyed or altered as well as portions of vernal pools on the property. Once damaged, these can be difficult to restore, and the benefits they provide may be permanently lost.
The Clean Water Act prohibits the placement of dredge or fill material into waters of the United States without a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Vernal pools form in landscape depressions filled by rainwater, groundwater, or overland flows. These seasonal wetlands come alive during winter and spring with uniquely adapted wildflowers, insects, shrimp, and other wildlife many found nowhere else on earth. A number of the fairy shrimp species and plants are listed as threatened or endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.

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