A Van Duzen river gravel miner has agreed, in principle, to pay $10,000 in fines and conduct extensive remediation along a stretch of the river after federal agencies charged his operation with violations of the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act.
In documents posted earlier this week on the the Department of Justice’s website, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration charge rancher Jack Noble, whose gravel operations along the river have long been controversial, with dumping “concrete, asphalt, rebar, trees and vegetation, gravel, excavated soil and other construction debris” into the river and on its banks, all without a permit.
They also charge that Noble used heavy equipment to build “roads, levies, berms and groins” in the Van Duzen’s streambed, altering its banks and the course of the river — again, with no permits.
The regulators charge that Noble has been doing such work from at least 2013 and up through at least 2016, when a federal complaint against his operations was first filed. In their complaint, they say it resulted in the illegal discharge of pollutants into the Van Duzer and the “taking” — incidental killing — of salmon and steelhead runs that are protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Under the terms of the proposed consent decree with the federal government, which he signed on June 4, Noble agrees to pay a $10,000 fine, to remove much of the debris replaced in or near the river over the years, to replant and revegetate sections of the property, to refrain from crossing the river with heavy equipment without advanced notice and to obtain all required permits in the future, among other things.
The specific terms of the proposed consent decree, which is linked below, will soon be put out for public comment. As of this writing, the dates during which comments will be accepted have not yet been set. (The case can be monitored on this page, which belongs to the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S Department of Justice.)
Reached this morning, Scott Greacen, conservation director of Friends of the Eel River, told the Outpost that he hadn’t yet had time to thoroughly review the terms of the agreement, but that at first glance it appeared to him to be a “slap on the wrist.” He said that FoER would likely submit comments on the proposal.
Under the terms of the consent decree, the government notes, Noble admits no wrongdoing in the matter. A voicemail left with Noble today was not immediately returned. We’ll update if we hear back.