EPA Fines Man For Building Pond on His Own Property

Johnson pond wyoming epa

Photo from, taken by the homeowner

The Environmental Protection Agency sure knows how to come across as reasonable and down to earth:

All Andy Johnson wanted to do was build a stock pond on his sprawling eight-acre Wyoming farm. He and his wife Katie spent hours constructing it, filling it with crystal-clear water, and bringing in brook and brown trout, ducks and geese. It was a place where his horses could drink and graze, and a private playground for his three children.

But instead of enjoying the fruits of his labor, the Wyoming welder says he was harangued by the federal government, stuck in what he calls a petty power play by the Environmental Protection Agency. He claims the agency is now threatening him with civil and criminal penalties – including the threat of a $75,000-a-day fine.

It would be hard for Andy Johnson to come across as more wholesome and sympathetic. It would be hard for the EPA to come across as anymore crazy and out of control than they are acting.

The government says he violated the Clean Water Act by building a dam on a creek without a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers. Further, the EPA claims that material from his pond is being discharged into other waterways. Johnson says he built a stock pond — a man-made pond meant to attract wildlife — which is exempt from Clean Water Act regulations.

The property owner says he followed the state rules for a stock pond when he built it in 2012 and has an April 4-dated letter from the Wyoming State Engineer’s Office to prove it.

“Said permit is in good standing and is entitled to be exercised exactly as permitted,” the state agency letter to Johnson said.

But the EPA isn’t backing down and argues they have final say over the issue. They also say Johnson needs to restore the land or face the fines.

The man even got permission from his state environmental agency. He probably had no idea that the EPA would want him to seek permission to build a small pond on his rural land. Why would they even care? Why would they even have enough resources to be able to look into every small pond constructed in the United States?

The EPA’s actions here are quite pernicious. First, the maximum daily penalty is $75,000. This frightens people because it’s a huge sum of money and adds up very quickly, even if its unlikely that the EPA would ever actually attempt to collect these fines in court. Second, individuals like Mr. Johnson have a life and don’t necessarily have the will or legal resources to get drawn into a multi-year legal battle with a government agency.

Common sense is unlikely to prevail. Thankfully the Members of Congress who represent Andy Johnson have decided to get involved. Let’s hope they can help him.


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