Char-Koosta News

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St. Ignatius rancher pleads guilty to damaging wetland on Flathead Reservation

ST. IGNATIUS — The United States Attorney’s Office announced that St. Ignatius area rancher, Brent Powell, 54, pled guilty today in federal court in Missoula to violating the federal Clean Water Act by damaging a wetland on the Flathead Indian Reservation. Powell faces a possible 1 year in prison and a $25,000 per day fine.

In an Offer of Proof, the prosecutor told the Court that Powell operates B.P. Cattle Company on property that includes a wetland complex bordering Sabine Creek and Mission Creek in Lake County, Montana, which are waters of the United States. These wetlands also lie within the Flathead Indian Reservation.

Through investigative interviews and a check of tribal records, the Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division (EPA-CID) established that in 2004, Powell failed to submit a Tribal Application for the Alteration of Aquatic Land or Wetland on the Flathead reservation, known as an 87A (ALCO), before he performed work in wetlands along Pistol Creek. As a result of the 2004 Clean Water Act 404 violations, the United States Army Corps of Engineers issued Powell a cease and desist order for the activities on Pistol Creek and Powell was required to remediate the area.

Undeterred, in 2010, Powell again dredged several channels on his property in an effort to drain the wetlands and extend his agricultural land along the Sabine and Mission Creeks. The dredged material was cast off beside the channels and remained within the wetland area. As a result of the work, heavy sediment was observed in the manmade channels, and cloudy water was observed flowing into Sabine Creek from manmade channels.

EPA-CID conducted interviews and reviewed documents that show Powell again failed to submit a Tribal Application for the Alteration of Aquatic Land or Wetland on the Flathead reservation, before he performed work along Sabine Creek.

In March 2010, the United States Army Corp of Engineers, EPA-CID, and Flathead tribal environmental specialists participated in an on-site inspection of the disturbed wetland area; they described the disturbance of wetland and riparian vegetation as very extensive. The disturbance of the wetland area includes approximately seven different areas in which soil was dredged from the wetland area and side-casted along the trenches into waters of the United States.

U.S. Attorney Mike Cotter lauded the work of EPA-CID, the Army Corps of Engineers and the environmental specialists of the Flathead Tribe, “The cooperative effort by federal and Tribal environmental enforcement agencies in this case resulted in a criminal violation of environmental laws being successfully prosecuted. This kind of prosecution sends the strong message that we will aggressively protect the waters and wetlands of Montana that all of us enjoy and upon which a healthy environment depends.”

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