Clean Water Act settlement with Barnsley Gardens preserves wetlands in North Georgia
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today the settlement of a Clean Water Act (CWA)Section 404 violation with Barnsley Inn & Gardens, L.P., owner of a golf and convention resort near Adairsville, Georgia. Barnsley allegedly filled more than 5 acres of wetlands adjacent to Dry Creek during construction of a water hazard and golf course, without obtaining a permit required under the CWA.
The enforcement action was a result of an inappropriate claim under the CWA’s farm pond exemption. A farm pond is excluded from Section 404 permitting requirements when the pond has an agricultural purpose, is sized according to its stated need, and does not adversely affect downstream or upstream waters. Barnsley’s Buffalo Pond was originally characterized as a farm pond, but was constructed to function as a golf water hazard and fishing amenity. The pond did not meet the purpose and scope of the farm pond exemption, and led to EPA’s initiation of the enforcement action.
Under the terms of the settlement, Barnsley will conduct onsite restoration work to return the natural flow of Dry Creek, a Georgia designated secondary trout stream. Barnsley also will pay a civil penalty of $15,000; complete a Supplemental Environmental Project by purchasing and transferring $100,000 in rights to wetland and river front property for perpetual preservation; and pursue an after-the-fact Section 404 permit from the Army Corps of Engineers with appropriate mitigation to authorize remaining impacts.
Two parcels of property are slated for preservation by the Barnsley Supplemental Environmental Project. Ten acres of land will be used to buffer the Etowah River from the effects of runoff pollution, sedimentation, and other impacts from upland development. EPA cites sedimentation as one of the most damaging environmental processes on Piedmont waterways. Twenty-eight acres of Drummond Swamp, a wetland that is part of the Etowah system, will also be preserved. Drummond Swamp is one of only three places in the country where a very rare plant, the seaside alder or Alnus maritima (Marsh.), is found. Chattowah Open Land Trust will hold easements on both properties to protect them from future development or misuse.
EPA hopes that this and other enforcement actions in the area will demonstrate the importance of obtaining CWA permits before initiating work in waters of the United States. CWA permits reduce and mitigate the adverse effects of pollutants on Georgia waters, which are critical to maintaining Georgia’s fish and wildlife resources and providing clean and safe drinking water to the public.
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