FORT BRIDGER, Wy. — The Environmental Protection Agency is threatening to fine a Wyoming man 75 thousand dollars a day.
The agency says a pond Andy Johnson built on his property to stock fish, let his kids play and a spot where his horses can drink violates the Clean Water Act.
“I think they’re trying to gain jurisdiction,” Johnson said. “They’re trying to see if they can run over me and then they will get into everyone’s irrigation ditch and stock ponds throughout not only Wyoming, but the United States.
Johnson’s pond was created with a dam on a nearby creek in Fort Bridger, which he built about five years ago.
He got the right permits from the state of Wyoming. But last month, Johnson received a letter from the Environmental Protection Agency saying he had violated the Clean Water Act by building a dam on a waterway without their permit. The EPA said he would be fined 75 thousand dollars a day until he ripped it all down.
“It’s scary,” said Katie Johnson, Andy’s wife. “We have a family and we have a lot to pay for. We can’t afford that.”
Johnson decided to fight the EPA. He says this isn't a dam, because no water is actually stored or regulated — it's all free-flowing. Johnson also said the EPA provided no proof he's harming the environment, so he doesn't feel he did anything wrong.
“I want to stand up for what I believe in, for what I’ve worked for,” Johnson said. “I feel like I’m entitled to that. I pay taxes, I live in this country and I’m going to fight it to the end.”.
The pond was a dream come true, something Johnson and his wife had always wanted and worked hard to build.
“I acquired a stock pond reservoir permit,” Johnson said. “They said go ahead and build it. When I was done with the project, I got a hold of them again and did a final on it and they sent me a paper back saying I’m in good standing. That my pond was exactly exercised as permitted.”
Johnson is hopeful something can be worked out, but he’s not backing down.
His story aired nationally, and he has been getting a lot of support from people.
Wyoming’s two U.S. Senators have written letters to the EPA on his behalf, but the EPA isn’t backing down either so far. They say they will carefully evaluate any additional information received and all the facts regarding this case.