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Union Pacific Pays $125,000 for Santa Barbara County Wetlands Violations

Release Date: 4/7/2003
Contact Information: Leo Kay, Press Office, 415/947-4306

     The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reached a settlement with Union Pacific Railroad last week that requires the company to pay $125,000 for alleged wetlands violations at two Santa Barbara County waterways in the '90s.

     Union Pacific paid $55,000 for illegally discharging dredged materials into Carpinteria Salt Marsh during a project in 1997, and another $70,000 for similar violations in 1999 at Laguna Creek.  

     "Railroad tracks cross some of the most sensitive natural areas in California," said John Kemmerer, acting director of the EPA's water division in San Francisco.  "Thanks to EPA's enforcement action, Union Pacific has already restored the damaged wetlands and has taken administrative steps to prevent such mistakes in the future.  The penalties assessed for these Clean Water Act violations also should deter others from damaging important natural resources."  

     Union Pacific failed to obtain a federal permit for trenching, dredging and filling activities in 1997 that damaged a portion of the 230-acre Carpinteria Salt Marsh, nearly half of which functions as a research and wildlife reserve run by the University of California Santa Barbara.        During the fall of 1999, the company also discharged dredged and fill materials into Laguna Creek without a federal permit as part of a bridge replacement project.

     People wishing to place fill materials into wetlands, rivers, streams, and other waters of the United States must apply to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a permit.  The EPA works with the Corps of Engineers to evaluate the permits, requiring applicants to provide the least environmentally damaging alternative possible.