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U.S. EPA $4.3 Million Settlement Nets Much-Needed Watershed Restoration

Release Date: 06/11/2008
Contact Information: Wendy Chavez, (415) 947-4248

Northern California River Projects to improve conditions for sensitive fish habitats

(6/11/2008 -- SAN FRANCISCO) As part of a national $4.3 million U.S. Environmental Protection Agency settlement with four home builders, Pulte Homes will spend approximately $608,000 to help restore two major tributaries to the Garcia River in Mendocino County, Calif., which is impaired for sediment and contains important steelhead and coho salmon habitat in need of restoration.

Michigan-based Pulte Homes, Southern California-based KB Homes, Texas-based Centex Homes and Colorado-based Richmond American Homes agreed to pay a combined $4.3 million in penalties to resolve widespread Clean Water Act stormwater violations at hundreds of construction sites nationwide. The companies are also required to implement a program that should prevent an estimated 1.2 billion pounds of sediment from entering the nation’s waters each year.

In addition to paying its share of the civil penalty, Pulte Homes will spend an additional estimated $608,000 to implement sediment reduction and prevention projects that include fixing roads, decommissioning roads not in use, and restoring the canopy and native vegetation in two sub-watersheds of the Garcia River.

“The Garcia River watershed provides vital habitat for threatened and endangered species, including the coho salmon, steelhead trout, the Foothill Yellow-Legged Frog and the California Red-Leg Frog,” said Alexis Strauss, the EPA’s Water Division director for the Pacific Southwest region. “Under this EPA agreement, Pulte Homes will help restore these coastal streams from the scars of past land uses.”

Pulte will spend an estimated $418,000 on the North Fork of the Garcia River, the largest sub-watershed of the river, to treat an estimated 13,475 cubic yards of stored and road-related sediment, and upgrade all permanent and seasonal roads and stream crossings within the sub-watershed. The North Fork project will decrease sediment loading and runoff and improve anadromous fish habitat.

The company will also spend an estimated $190,000 on the Blue Waterhole Creek, which is a high-priority for restoration because although it contains good natural pool structures desired by anadromous fish, it is also subject to very high water temperatures lethal to young coho salmon. The project will prevent approximately 7,800 cubic yards of road-related sediment runoff associated with 17 miles of roads on 1,664 acres of land, and by adding to the riparian canopy will decrease water temperatures needed to provide suitable habitat for coho salmon.

In 1996, the state of California identified the Garcia River as impaired for excessive sedimentation. The state found that accelerated erosion from land-use practices and other causes affected the migrations, spawning, reproduction and early development of cold water fish, such as coho salmon and steelhead trout. With the designation of the Garcia River as impaired, the CWA required development of a total daily maximum load, or TMDL, for the river. In 1998, the EPA established the TMDL to set in place allocations for sources of sedimentation, including roads, timber harvesting, and natural background. In 2002, the EPA TMDL was superseded by a similar TMDL developed by the state of California.

The government complaints allege a common pattern of violations among the four home builders that was discovered by reviewing documentation submitted by the companies and through federal and state site inspections. The violations include not obtaining permits until after construction had begun or failing to obtain the required permits at all. At the sites that did have permits, violations included failure to prevent or minimize the discharge of pollutants, such as silt and debris, in storm water runoff.

The four separate settlements resolve alleged violations of storm water run-off regulations at construction sites in 34 states and the District of Columbia. Each company will pay the following penalties:

Centex: $1,485,000
KB Home: $1,185,000
Pulte: $877,000
Richmond: $795,000

The settlements require the companies to develop improved pollution prevention plans for each site, increase site inspections and promptly correct any problems that are detected. The companies must properly train construction managers and contractors, and are required to have trained staff at each construction site. They must also implement a management and internal reporting system to improve oversight of on-the-ground operations and submit annual reports to the EPA.

The Clean Water Act requires that construction sites have controls in place to prevent pollution from being discharged with storm water into nearby waterways. These controls include simple pollution prevention techniques such as silt fences, phased site grading, and sediment basins to prevent common construction contaminants from entering the nation’s waterways.

For information on the national EPA settlement with the four home builders, please visit: The consent decrees, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, are subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court. Copies of the consent decrees are available on the Justice Department Web site at