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EPA sues Scottsdale developer for filling and diverting the Santa Cruz River
Release Date: 11/8/2005
Contact Information: Wendy L. Chavez, (415) 947-4248
SAN FRANCISCO -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that the Justice Department has filed a Clean Water Act complaint on its behalf in the U.S. District Court in Phoenix against Scottsdale developer George H. Johnson and his companies, Johnson International, Inc. and General Hunt Properties, Inc. for filling and diverting the Santa Cruz River.
The alleged violations arose from the defendants' extensive grading and land-clearing activities in 2003 and 2004 on the King and La Osa Ranches in Pinal County, Ariz. The ranches lie within the Santa Cruz River flood plain. According to the complaint, the defendants diverted and filled over 100 acres of the river and its tributaries, including Los Robles Wash, without the required Clean Water Act permit.
The stretch of the river that flows through the ranches is of particular ecological significance. Prior to the defendants' land-clearing activities, perennial flow in the stretch supported one of the Sonoran Deserts wettest riparian forests, including one of its last remaining mesquite bosque forests. These forests are vital to the survival of the desert's richly diverse wildlife.
"The Santa Cruz River is one of the most important waterways in southern Arizona. It sustains numerous cities and farm lands, and is crucial to the health of the Sonoran Desert ecosystem," said Alexis Strauss, director of the EPA's Water Division for the Pacific Southwest region. "EPA is committed to protecting valuable water resources by enforcing the safeguards of the Clean Water Act and holding violators accountable."
The Clean Water Act prohibits the discharge of dredged or fill material into the nation's waters without a permit issued by the Army Corps of Engineers under section 404 of the Act. The EPA jointly administers the 404 program with the Corps and works with the Corps to evaluate the permit applications. The permit is available only to a project that avoids impacts to the aquatic environment to the maximum extent practicable and mitigates for the unavoidable impacts.
The suit seeks injunctive relief to remedy the environmental damage caused by the defendants' alleged illegal activities. The defendants also face civil penalties of up to $32,500 per day per violation.
For more information about the 404 program, go to: https://www.epa.gov/region9/water/wetlands/index.html