$1.1 million penalty for Valley farmer who plowed wetlands

August 15, 2017

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A California farmer has agreed to pay $1.1 million for disturbing streams and wetlands after he challenged federal environmental regulations for years.

The U.S. Justice Department announced the consent decree Tuesday in the long-running case with Modesto-area farmer and nursery operator John Duarte.

The case began after Duarte bought fallow land in 2012 and paid a contractor to excavate federally protected streams and wetlands on it.

Authorities say Duarte will pay the more than $1 million in civil penalties and restoration fees.

Those who sided with Duarte argue that the resulting federal enforcement interfered with a farmer's right to plow his land. A federal court rejected that argument last year, saying the wetlands Duarte destroyed hadn't been plowed for at least 24 years.

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