EPA Fines Wyoming Man $16 Million for Building a Pond on His Property

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The Johnson family
The Johnson Family

Farmers and ranchers call the EPA’s new water rule the biggest land grab in the history of the world. It is a massive land grab, especially in a country that has been built on the right to own property. The administration is changing all that.

A new oppressive water rule gives the EPA jurisdiction over all public and private streams in the United States that are “intermittent, seasonal and rain-dependent.” It will regulate what are normal daily ranching and farming practices and take control of their land.

According to congressional budget testimony, waters of the United States would give the EPA authority over streams on private property even when the water beds have been dry, in some cases, for hundreds of years.

McCarthy

EPA Chief Gina McCarthy tested the power of the EPA in advance of the passage of these harsh new rules by using it in the case of a Wyoming man and his pond. The rule wasn’t even put through when the EPA threatened him. McCarthy took out her pen and phone.

Andy Johnson is being fined $37,500 a day and faces criminal penalties for building a pond on his property.

The Johnson Family Pond
The Johnson Family Pond

Andy and Katie Johnson built a stock pond on their 8-acre Wyoming farm. They filled it with clear water, fish, ducks and geese. His horses used it to drink and graze.

All went well until the EPA went after the family for violating the Clean Water Act. Regulators showed up on the Johnson’s land one day and said they were facing a “very serous matter.”

Andy Johnson has vowed to go bankrupt before he pays the government a dime. He wants to teach his children to not back down.

Mr. Johnson
Mr. Johnson

The EPA claims the Johnsons built a dam on a creek without a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers. The EPA charges the pond discharges into other waterways. Johnson says it’s a pond to attract wildlife which is exempt from Clean Water regulations.

Wyoming pond

Johnson says a letter from the Wyoming State Engineeer’s Office proves he followed state rules.

The EPA claims they have the final say and they won’t back down.

Johnson felt hopeless when he received the EPA order, but he now has Republican lawmakers helping him, including Wyoming Senators John Barrasso, Mike Enzi, and Louisiana Sen. David Vitter.

The congressmen sent a March 12, 2014 letter to the EPA’s acting Assistant Administrator demanding the EPA withdraw the compliance order which “reads like a draconian edict of a heavy-handed bureaucracy”.

Johnson was given 60 days to hire a consultant to assess the impact and to schedule restoration work on his own property. He refused.

Mr. Johnson is being represented by the Libertarian organization, Pacific Legal Foundation, as he fights what has been called a “regulatory war” with the Obama administration over environmental issues ranging from water quality to gas drilling, coal power plants to sage grouse.

“We can’t have unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats ignoring the limits of their own authority,” said Jonathan Wood, a lawyer for the foundation. “There was no need for federal regulation here.”

“It makes no sense whatsoever,” Mr. Johnson said, pointing at the waving grasses and birds pinwheeling around the water. “We have wetlands now. I really think the E.P.A. should be coming in and saying, ‘Good job.’

Mr. Johnson had gotten full approvals from Wyoming officials, and said the federal government had no business using national water laws to make decisions about the creek that meanders through the family’s eight-acre property. Mr. Johnson and his wife, Katie, had spent $50,000 — most of their savings, they said — to create the pond to water their 10 head of cattle and four horses. Dismantling it now would be ruinously expensive and destroy what has become a tiny oasis for birds and wildlife, they said.

After a standoff of a year, Mr. Johnson sued the E.P.A., asking a judge to declare his pond legal and wave away accumulating fines that could now reach $16 million.

the creek

“They have no right to be here,” Mr. Johnson said. “We’re law-abiding people. It makes your blood boil that they would come after you like that.”

The suit says that the pond was created to water stock and is too far removed from navigable rivers to fall under the E.P.A.’s authority.

The EPA is not needed in this case and is only causing problems for a man and his private property. If they have to bankrupt him for no reason whatsoever, they are willing to do that. They seek to control all land and water.

The Supreme Court of the United States has defined the meaning of ‘water’ as ‘navigable water.’ The EPA seeks to redefine the meaning of water as all ‘connected water,’ and they are seeking to define ‘connected water as all water, so they can assume power to regulate every body of water in the United States. Any water, even ditches, on private property could be controlled.

The EPA is using a bogus study which says all water is connected to one another deep under the earth. It would mean even puddles, ponds, and ditches along with streams and rivers fall under their jurisdiction if they choose it to be.

The Environmental Protection Agency has long embodied the worst regulatory extremism found in the federal bureaucracy.

Judge Napolitano

Listen to Judge Napolitano explain:

Sources: Here and here;

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76 COMMENTS

  1. For a bunch of IDIOTS that constantly mess up OUR drinking water they’ve got no room to say a damn thing! These IDIOTS need to be fired and prosecuted! WE are NOT A COMMUNIST STATE you sacks of communist crap!

    MIND YOUR OWN DAMN BUSINESS!

  2. Where is the State of Wyoming? If Johnson complied with the State of Wyoming, then the State should be backing him. Yeah, it’s nice that he’s got a few congress critters supporting him, and a pro bono legal foundation but the governor and the legislature and the AG ought to be making it clear if the EPA has a beef, they better take it up with the State, because they are good with Johnson’s pond.
    See , we hear all the time about states’ rights, states’ rights but when push comes to shove, even the ‘red’ states don’t stand up to the feds. They just let their citizens twist slowly in the wind, to borrow a turn of phrase from John Ehrlichman.
    Shades of Kim Davis. Cowardly, cowardly state legislatures and governors.

    • Spot on friend. Now in Idaho they want to close 1,200 miles of forest roads.
      Watch them take over the Bundy ranch in Nevada, everyone but the Mom and grandkids are in jail, easy Pickens for beaueaucrats and ignorant enforcement people.
      Bet u a buck not one of those of officers (sic) has read one word in the Constitution of these United States of America .
      QUESTION. …… Why, why are arms of the government seizing private property? Something very sinister is going on or maybe just stupid people in charge.

      • The gold that backed our financial standing is gone and the land owned by America (taxpayers) will now be treated as if privately owned by the federal government corporation, including commodifying, selling, using it for their private interests. The associated air and water also. Public lands are no longer for public use, but for the government to hold privately and restrict access from the public. Parks are not being kept up. Undisclosed weather warfare and modification is being used to create disasters and droughts so that people abandon their properties. The holdouts will be called terrorists and militants and they will be pressured until they abandon their lands or are in jail. The basic idea is there is all of this great land here, they want it to increase their own power and wealth…they want all of us to abandon the land live in crowded cities and be consumers/slaves to them while they charge us for every thing we breathe drink eat.

    • The two main senators backing him are the reps from Wyoming, the Governor is backing him and so are the States ag and several other state groups not mentioned. I’m from Wyoming and its clear as to why we don’t really care much for outsiders half can’t even figure out what we do here, if the Lithium mines go forward Wyoming in single handedly produce 3/4 of the national GDP.

  3. There is so much nuance to EPA “regs” it could fine you for pouring bottled water on the ground. It’s not about science, what’s good or what is right. It is about power and the mentalities an un-elected bureaucracy harbors.

      • More people think this way than you know and I’m certainly one of them. We’re getting sick and tired of this BS spewed from the mouths of federal bureaucrats. “Come and take it” at your own peril

  4. This is deceptive as Hell.

    Water rights are a big deal in many areas of the West, particularly areas where the water is scarce. You don’t necessarily own the water rights to your land. Likewise you may not own the mineral rights to your land. Most of the Western States work on a “Prior Appropriation” approach to water rights. It is first come first served. The East, where there is enough water to go around, generally uses an “Equitable Distribution” model.

    With prior appropriation, which has been the law since there was law out there, the first water user has a property right in the water he appropriates. Later users, called junior users, have subordinated property rights in the water. Under the Constitution, changing that distribution, even if just, is a taking and the property owner must be compensated for his property loss. There is a tremendous number of property owners. No one wants to go there.

    The guy in the article isn’t collecting rainwater on his roof, although people have been dinged for that, too. He had a ten acre lake. Moreover, the lake is impounded with an unpermitted earthen dam. Is the dam safe? Is it a deadly danger to people downstream? Are there any people downstream? We don’t know. Building stuff on waterways is a big deal in every state. This is because altering stream characteristics and watershed characteristics can harm or damage people living near the waterway. The permitting process is supposed to allow that to be determined. It generally requires some expensive engineering studies. The landowner refused to apply for a permit.

    Then he ignored court summonses.

    Would you say a giant corporation should be able to take all the water on their 50 square mile landholding, dam the creeks and dry up the downstream users? After all, he “owns the rain” that falls on his land.

    • You’re pretty clueless. First of all les unpack your clueless ravings about prior use: the State issued a permit that permit is in cnsderation of prior use.

      Second you add the gibberish about the dam: see permit approved above.

      Third you out yourself as a non land owning communist. While water rights and mineral rights aren’t related it’s State by State like water prior use. Lots of States mineral rights are the property land owners catch a clue and stop posting clueless stuff.

      Or…you could be a communist you’re clearly supporting them.

    • He went thru his state and received all required permits. He didn’t just go and do it. Read the article, it states all this, you’re just like the media! Just shut up!

      • Duh, it must be true if a biased article says it! Pull your head boutique of you a– and do a little research with google. It’s really not that hard now that we have these learning box thingys called computers and smartphones. When you do that you’ll see there are a lot more facts to the case and this guy is just like all the rest of you whiners crying boo hoo my life is so bad because of the government! No your life is so bad because you have a victim lose mentality and can’t use your brain for critical and logical thinking.

    • You are absolutely correct with your points. This is presented very biased in the article and so are most of all these postings. Thanks for am educated and reasoned response in a world where intelligence and the like is so rare.

    • you are a moron they had approval from the state as stated in the article .read the whole thing. the approval was given by the only governing body that needed to when the owners put in the pond. by all rights he did not need to appear for any court summons as they were eroniously given by a court that had no right to give them. we as a people should all be up in arms and standing by the sise of any person that is being railroaded by whatever government body that is doing its best to undermine all that is unjust and draconian. wake up america

    • The article states that the state acknowledged that he followed engineering rules. The EPA is not even claiming structural issues – only jurisdictional ones.

      This is not about denying water rights. This is about alleviating flash floods and creating wildlife habitat. Who is claiming it is about the water rights of others? Facts please, not conjecture.

    • “Mr. Johnson had gotten full approvals from Wyoming officials,…”. They obviously had NO issue with the creation of this “pond”.

    • It’s not deceptive at all…..he went through the proper state channels and was approved to build the pond…..end of story….I’m sure the state engineers took all of the issues that u brought up to heart……we’s is from Podunk Wyoming but we is pretty smart.

    • 10 acre lake? He doesn’t need to be fined and harassed. The government needs him to show them how he was able to build a 10 acre lake on an 8 acre farm.

        • Kamkor, indeed the *article* states that the farm is 8 acres, yet Mannie’s comment strangely criticizes the farmer for building a “10 acre lake”.

          I believe Cliff is wryly drawing attention to the fact that Mannie is talking out of his hat….

    • People like you are what is wrong with this country.

      We don’t own the water and mineral rights to our own land?

      Just let the govt try to show me otherwise, and they too will meet with some resistance!!!!

    • 10 Acre Lake?? The article clearly states they have an 8 acre farm. Regardless the EPA needs to leave this family alone.

    • Typical communoliberal idiot. How does a stock pond within the confines of an eight-acre farm become a “ten-acre lake”? You must work for the EPA…

    • He followed all his states regulations and permitting instructions.It is the Federal Government who has stepped in afterward to cause trouble.A state has the right to control it’s own property.

    • That is exactly right. If the stream originates from off his land and continues to flow until it leaves his property, he does not have the right to dam it according to the water rights you mentioned.

  5. The state’s complain about state rights being usurped by the Fed’s, but they lack the backbone to to take them back. Sad when they are given a case where they could certainly win. Are they just wimpy men, or is someone being paid off, or being threatened themselves?

  6. This is an accurate article. The government has abused their authority. I have a lot of BLM guys who come on my site to lie about this and other similar articles so consider that when reading some of these comments. I traced several IPs on a few articles directly to the BLM and at one point a head honcho wanted to speak with me.

  7. Why all the water issues lately? Laws now on the books to prevent us from catching rainwater? What is the big picture? What is being hidden from us? Because i am aware that congress passes laws without realizing laws exist that already adress issues, i say that with proper research one can fight back legally. A great place to start is , Law Library of Congress. Don’t worry about the terrorists in the streets, worry about the ones in suits.

  8. We have lost our rights to own or possess property here in the United States. Taxes have been the vehicle, to steal our freedom and our land. Big government has stuck their noses in our business until we have no more privacy. Big brother is watching and listening to everything we do. It is because of what they do. They fear retribution. We have a right to fear big government and to protect ourselves from it, by force if necessary.

  9. merle

    If a pond is full and is filled by a stream or a spring it should have a spill way to keep water flowing to others down stream

    • Well, it has to. Once the pond is filled, the stream flow in and out is basically constant and equal, with the exception of useage and evaporation.

    • Thank you! You said what I didn’t want to say because the people with the exception of a few who post on stuff like this are idiots.

  10. Do you suppose, the outcome could have been different, if he had stated that the water was for fire fighting purposes, instead of a pond ?

  11. Based on the picture of this family and the behavior exhibited so far in this matter there should be an immediate response from the Feds including carpet bombing with chemical weapons and an all out strike forced dispatched immediately after that with shoot to kill orders for any remaining persons. These people are with out a doubt a direct threat to all life on this planet and should be eliminated with extreme predjudice. How dare they build a pond. Whats next a tree house.

  12. Definitely not a stock pond.
    I read this article 6 months ago and did my own research.
    This guy is full of shit and is getting what he deserves.
    He should have done the right thing when this all started instead digging himself deeper.

  13. The epa sound like the minions from Hell and need to go back there and leave this man alone. It is his land, he had the authority of wyoming officials to build the pond and STATES rights should trump , irrational, national rights especially when they are delusional, nonsensical and outrageous!!!! Fight it all the way to The Supreme Court!!!

  14. It’s bs that he pays the darn taxes and yet is told what to do basically the goverment is getting out of hand.it’s a darn pond.you dont bitch when people cut trees that supply oxygen. The problem is no one can mind their damn business…he is not hurting anyone.the pond attracts wild life and supplies water to his farm animals, what’s the harm?make a man go bankrupt over a pond smh.

  15. Who stands to gain by these laws? Certainly not the people. Our government has become extremely currupt! An individual can’t make a pond, but fracking which contaminates deep water that is connected is ok…. who are they kidding?
    The United states oil, gas, mining, chemical and nuclear waste is creating huge environmental destruction, and is destroying all our natural resources. But corporations bribe there way thru, while normal people get harassed for a pond!
    Think about it, if the EPA wasn’t harassing citizens, they would have no choice but to fight real battles with huge well funded corporations. Basically, the EPA is designed to make it easy for corporations to do business and limit natural resources to the use of big business.

    • Unfortunately it is. The EPA has some petty reasons for going on to his property. They want to show they are serious about their new water rule that isn’t even in effect.

  16. Maybe they should get government owned water systems up to code instead of giving people lead poisoning before worrying about someone else. Lousy shit heels.

  17. As a Canadian I look at this and wonder WTF happened to your constitution and bill of rights. Canada is basically a communist state ruled by the queen of England. We have our own politics but she has the right to veto anything and occasionally steps in and fucks us over. The American people fought the war of independence to remove that particular impedance. Americans have the right to keep arms for the purpose of destroying enemies to their freedom. I think it is the duty of Americans to gun down people that say you cant catch rainwater in a bucket.

    • Rob,
      As an Aussie and a fellow subject of Her Majesty(!) my response is…. wtf dude, why didn’t you guys draw up a better constitution? The Queen can’t do shit here except cut ribbons and smile for the cameras occasionally..

  18. Hey see what the Corrupt Army Corps, the inept EPA and the seriously stupid Utah State Engineer have done to the Duchesne Rivr and the threats they are sending at us on Face Book #NOTFIVECENTSNORFIVESECONDS

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