Andy Johnson, a hardworking welder in Wyoming, and his wife put their “blood, sweat and tears” into building a stock pond on their 8-acre farm. They constructed it with their bare hands, filling it with brook and brown trout and even bringing in ducks and geese to float on the clear water.
However, Johnson’s dream of a pond quickly turned into a nightmare when the federal government stepped in and threatened him with civil and criminal penalties, including a potential $75,000-a-day fine.
In an interview with FoxNews.com, Johnson defiantly proclaimed: “I have not paid them a dime, nor will I.”
“I will go bankrupt if I have to fighting it. My wife and I built [the pond] together. We put our blood, sweat and tears into it. It was our dream,” he added.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claims Johnson violated the Clean Water Act by “building a dam on a creek without a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers,” according to the FoxNews.com report. The federal agency also says material from his pond is leaking into other waterways.
However, Johnson says his man-made pond, intended to attract wildlife, is exempt from regulations included in the Clean Water Act. Further, he claims he purposely followed state rules when he built the pond in 2012, citing an April 4 letter from the Wyoming State Engineer’s Office.
The agency reportedly informed him that his “permit is in good standing and is entitled to be exercised exactly as permitted.”
The husband and father plans to battle the EPA because, for him, it’s about more than the pond.
“It’s about a person’s rights. I have three little kids. I am not going to roll over and let [the government] tell me what I can do on my land,” he said. “I followed the rules.”
Though some U.S. lawmakers, including Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and David Vitter (R-La.), have called on the EPA to withdraw the compliance order, the EPA doesn’t seem to be backing down.
“Fairness and due process require the EPA base its compliance order on more than an assumption,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to the agency. “Instead of treating Mr. Johnson as guilty until he proves his innocence by demonstrating his entitlement to the Clean Water Act section 404 (f)(1)(C) stock pond exemption, EPA should make its case that a dam was built and that the Section 404 exemption does not apply.”
“If Johnson doesn’t comply — and he hasn’t so far — he’s subject to $37,500 per day in civil penalties as well as another $37,500 per day in fines for statutory violations,” FoxNews.com reports.
Read the full report here.