WASHINGTON, D.C. — Goose Pond Ag. Inc., and its manager of operations Farmland Management Services Inc., an affiliate of the John Hancock Life Insurance Company, will pay $5.3 million in civil penalties for impacts to streams and wetlands connected to the Sacramento River, according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
According to the DOJ, the settlement stems from the companies' purchase of 1,500 acres of unfarmed property that lay fallow for 20 years and in which they planned to make a walnut orchard. The companies began using heavy machinery through streams and wetlands which significantly degraded the areas, the DOJ said.
The department also alleges the companies knew of the environmental impacts and were alerted to the fact that the land included federally protected streams and wetlands prior to purchasing it, yet still used "ripping" and dredging equipment on the land in violation of the Clean Water Act.
“[This] agreement constitutes one of the largest settlements ever reached in a case involving the unpermitted filling of streams and wetlands," said DOJ Environment and Natural Resources Division acting assistant attorney Jeffrey Wood in a statement. "Importantly, this result also finally draws to a close another chapter in long-running Clean Water Act litigation involving these properties near the Sacramento River in Tehama County.”
The settlement also includes the mitigation of the disturbed streams and wetlands and requires the companies to permantly preserve the land's streams, wetlands and buffer areas.