Enforcement

Falls Creek Farm - Sterling - Connecticut Settlement

(Boston, Mass. - October 4, 2012)  The owners of Falls Creek Farm, a horse boarding and training facility and farm located in Sterling, Conn., have agreed to restore and create 11.3 acres of wetlands to settle claims by the United States that wetlands were illegally filled and altered during construction of a private golf course and other modifications to their property.

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Overview

The proposed Consent Decree in this matter resolves a Clean Water Act (“CWA”) civil judicial action against Guy B. Snowden, Diane P. Snowden, FCF Realty, LLC and Falls Creek Farm, LLC (collectively, “Defendants”) for violations involving the unauthorized discharge of dredged and/or fill material to waters of the United States. The violations alleged by the United States occurred at a property referred to as Falls Creek Farm, a horse boarding and training facility and farm located on the Connecticut/Rhode Island border in Sterling, Connecticut. The property includes a house, equestrian arenas, barns, stables, farm fields where vegetables for specialty markets are grown, and a private golf course. The property was purchased by Guy Snowden in 1987, and is currently owned and/or operated by two limited liability companies owned by Guy Snowden and his wife Diane Snowden.

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Violations

The case alleges between 1987 and 2008, one or more of the Defendants, or persons working on their behalf, violated Sections 301 and 404 of the CWA by discharging dredged and/or fill material into approximately 10.5 acres of wetlands and other waterways on the property without first obtaining a permit under Section 404 of the CWA from the Army Corps of Engineers (the “Corps”). The unauthorized discharges occurred at several different locations throughout the property when the Defendants filled wetlands to construct a private golf course, to alter drainage features, and to expand operations on the property, according to the complaint in the case. Unlawful discharges also allegedly occurred when the Defendants dredged existing ponds on the property and reshaped the banks of Carson Brook, a perennial stream that flows through the property.

In an earlier incident in 1997, the Corps determined that Guy Snowden, or persons working on his behalf, filled approximately 2.9 acres of wetlands on the property to expand operations at the site. At that time, Guy Snowden was advised that work in wetlands required a permit from the Corps. Wetlands restoration was conducted to resolve the issues with the Corps.

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Health and Environmental Effects

The environmental impacts of the Defendants’ alleged illegal discharges are significant. The Defendants filled and altered scrub-shrub and forested wetlands which provide several functions that are important to the larger ecosystem. These functions likely include filtering of pollutants, groundwater discharge, floodflow alteration, and providing fish and wildlife habitat. By reducing the pollutant-filtering abilities of the wetlands on the property, the Defendants’ activities also likely affected the water quality of Bailey Pond, an area used for recreational fishing and boating located downstream of the property.

Wetlands act as natural treatment plants by purifying infiltrating water and later releasing it in the form of groundwater discharge to adjacent waters. Floodflow alteration is the function performed by wetlands in their capacity as natural sponges. Flood waters held by wetlands are slowly released or discharged into adjacent waterways, resulting in reduced flooding. Destruction of scrub-shrub and forested wetlands adversely impact wildlife that breed, nest and feed in these aquatic habitats.

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Injunctive Relief

The injunctive relief requirements of the proposed Consent Decree will result in the reestablishment of significant wetlands functions by focusing on reestablishing wetlands and wetlands hydrology in three large areas of the property. The Defendants will restore and create over 11 acres of wetlands on the property as follows:

  • Restoration of 5.7 acres of wetlands and portions of Carson Brook.
  • Restoration of 2.4 acres of previously altered wetlands.
  • Creation of 3.2 acres of wetlands adjacent to Carson Brook, existing wetlands, and other restored wetlands.

The Defendants will also permanently preserve approximately 19 acres of wetlands on the property (including 3.56 acres of the wetlands to be restored) through a conservation easement or, if no viable easement holder is found, an alternative method acceptable to EPA. 

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Pollutant Reductions

In CWA cases involving the unauthorized discharge of dredged and/or fill material, EPA measures pollution reduction based on the number of acres mitigated for wetlands or the number of linear feet mitigated for streams. The injunctive relief requirements of this settlement will mitigate the 10.5 acres of wetlands impacts caused by the Defendants’ activities.

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Civil Penalty

Within 60 days of the effective date of the settlement, the Defendants will pay a civil penalty of $405,000. This penalty amount reflects both the environmental significance and compliance significance of the violation.

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Comment Period

The proposed settlement, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. Information on submitting comments is available at the U.S. Department of Justice.

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Contact

Melissa Katz
Water Enforcement Division
Office of Civil Enforcement - OECA
Ariel Rios Building (Mail Code 2243A)
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20460
(202) 564-5567
Melissa Katz (katz.melissa@epa.gov)

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