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EPA settles wetlands enforcement case in Tulare County
Release Date: 9/22/2004
Contact Information: Lisa Fasano, Press Office, (415) 947-4307
SAN FRANCISCO -- As part of a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over wetlands violations along Cottonwood Creek north of Visalia, the Leyendekker family will convey a nearby 300-acre parcel of land to a regional land trust for permanent protection and management.
The parcel, known as "Westside 300", is south of Waukena near Creighton Ranch amid the convergence of several creeks, rivers, and sloughs. The parcel supports 40 acres of rare, alkali vernal pools in the proximity of the ancient shoreline of the drained Tulare Lake. Vernal pools are a type of seasonal wetland that often support plants and animals unique to California.
The property will be managed for conservation purposes while allowing sustainable livestock grazing and scientific research accompanied by a rigorous restoration and management plan being prepared by the land trust.
"Through the years, the wetlands and waterways of Tulare County have been severely altered and impaired," said Alexis Strauss, director of EPA's water division for the Pacific Southwest region. "We are pleased the aquatic resources on Westside 300 will be restored and protected forever to help offset the unfortunate loss of wetlands along Cottonwood Creek".
In June, 2000, the Leyendekkers converted 75 percent of a nearly pristine 320-acre parcel along Cottonwood Creek from wetlands into cultivated farmland. Workers destroyed approximately 33 acres of vernal pools and swales by deep-ripping, disking, and land-leveling without appropriate federal and state permits.
The Clean Water Act prohibits the placement of dredged or fill materials into wetlands, rivers, streams, and other waterways without a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Corps, and together, EPA and the Corps administer the federal wetlands program.