Federal Judge Approves Settlement With Landowner Over Violations in and Around the Van Duzen River

Press release from the US Department of Justice:

Department of Justice featureA federal district court judge approved a settlement resolving alleged violations of the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act in and around the Van Duzen River by Humboldt County landowner, Jack Noble.  The announcement was made by Acting U.S. Attorney Alex G. Tse, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the U.S. Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resource Division (ENRD) Jeffrey H. Wood, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Michael Stoker, and Assistant Director for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries West Coast Division Office of Law Enforcement Greg Busch.

The settlement, approved by U.S. District Judge Saundra B. Armstrong on Monday, August 27, 2018, includes a consent decree pursuant to which Noble will remove concrete and other debris that he dumped into the Van Duzen River in an attempt to armor the river’s banks.  Noble also will create woody alcoves in the river for fish habitat and revegetate the banks to restore the river.  Under the decree, Noble also will pay a $10,000 civil penalty and is enjoined from additional work in the Van Duzen without first obtaining a clearance from relevant federal agencies.

The Clean Water Act requires any person who plans to discharge fill in any portion of rivers (or other waters of the United States) to obtain a permit from the United States Army Corps of Engineers or authorized state. Further, the Endangered Species Act protects listed species and prohibits killing listed species, injuring them, or significantly modifying or degrading their habitat.  In this case, Noble placed fill and other pollutants in sections of the Van Duzen River, a designated Wild and Scenic River that serves as habitat to protected coho salmon, chinook salmon, and steelhead trout.  He did so without obtaining a permit and despite warnings from state and federal officials.  These activities altered the reach of the river, had an adverse impact on critical fish spawning areas, and otherwise crushed or stranded fish.

“The federal law has been crafted to protect certain areas from unpermitted construction and dumping,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Alex G. Tse.  “Today’s settlement would ensure that this critical habitat in Humboldt County will be restored to the condition it was before pollutants were introduced in and around the Van Duzen River.  We will continue to use the resources of this office to ensure that federal laws are enforced for the protection of our environment.”

“The Van Duzen River is not only a place for recreation, but also serves as an important water supply for the communities of Humboldt County, California,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resource Division. “Today’s settlement shows that the Justice Department will continue to work closely with its partners at the federal, state and local level to ensure the longevity of our natural resources and make sure that companies, as well as individuals, comply with the Clean Water Act.”

“Today’s settlement will help restore one of California’s Wild and Scenic Rivers and enhance habitat for salmon,” said Regional Administrator Mike Stoker with the EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region. “EPA looks forward to continuing to work with our local, state and federal partners to monitor the restoration work’s success.”

“NOAA is committed to enforcing regulations for the conservation and recovery of threatened and endangered species,” said Greg Busch, Assistant Director for NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement, West Coast Division. “This case is an excellent example of how state and federal agencies work together to reduce the harmful effect of human activities on protected species and their habitats.”

This litigation was handled jointly by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Pyle of the Northern District of California and Trial Attorneys John Thomas Do, Simi Bhat, and Andrea Gelatt of the Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division.  The resolution of this case is the result of a joint effort by EPA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and NOAA who are often aided by their state counterparts as well as groups and individuals who report suspected violations.  This matter was brought to the attention of the federal agencies by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and members of the public.

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52 comments

  • Was it a marijuana grow? Doesn’t say.

    • No. He has been dumping huge chunks of concrete into the river, along the rivers edge to keep it from eroding away.

      • How dare he shore up the riverbank with concrete to keep it from eroding and mudding up the river and silting up the river bed, can’t make this stuff up, how stupid of a penalty, glad we got highly paid graduates watching our rivers, cause the rivers around here are in excellent shape, keep up the good job engineers, you guys rock ,or should I say mud up, job security is job one when it comes to government

        • the misadventures of bunjee

          Thing is concrete blocks aren’t the best or healthiest choice for erosion control. Why not use local rocks and trees? Ground up chunks of roadway and concrete contain all sorts of powders like lime, bitumen, chromium…cement powder, like Portland concrete is caustic too before it cures (again) and can cause skin burns to people and animals. And rebar is just dangerous to dump in rivers, especially a river with lots of folks that like to kayak, swim or fish in it. He took the easy route and used “erosion control” as an excuse to dump material. Material whose alternatives are easily found.

  • A gravel extraction operation.

  • So, running heavy equipment in river and altering the riverbed for gravel is ok, but you’ll have to pay a small fine for PR… just so it looks good to the locals who used to fish and enjoy the river.

  • Taxation without representation, Jack being a long time logger, Rancher, Hay grower, farmer, etc. I am sure has paid more state, federal, employee, social security taxes, etc. Than most. Then on top of that all the business permits thru the years plus license fees. He must have been unable to hold his nose long enough to donate contributions to the political party in California that holds all the power. Good luck my old friend in your future endeavors if you are not retired.

    • ?Who closed off the entrance to the riverbar@Fisher Rd? With HUGE concrete pillars? Who then also has a gravel mining operation there you can see from google earth? Really I am not sure, but I tipped to this story a few months back saying heavy equipment was extracting gravel out of the river. I would like this story cleared up as too, why the riverbar is locked up from use.

  • What river? Lmao, freakin creek in May, dry creek in June,July, August ,September and October, I’m sure that concrete made it dry for those 5 months ,address the real problem

  • Good! So it’s $10,000 a day for the violation and abatement, right? Oh wait- it’s only $10,000 TOTAL. Because there was no cannabis. So…pushing a bunch of concrete into a Wild and Scenic River is not that bad, comparitively? Hey Estelle! Hey John Ford! You getting this?

  • So, who is going to follow up on this? Settlement? Just another feel good “settlement” that will be soon forgotten in the abyss of settlements because it so much easier and cheaper than prosecuting the crooks. Where are the teeth and who is responsible?

    • Lotta Wordsworth

      Oh Gary, if it’s so great in trump- thumping Arizona, why are you worried about what goes on back here in Hooterville?
      Besides, trumpsters don’t like no stinking environmental controls anyways, so why do you care if it’s all for show? Aterall, “all for show” is the theme of the trumpster era.
      Btw, didn’t you help give an unqualified administrator a fat raise in a backroom deal instead of having a public debate?
      Where are YOUR teeth, and who’s responsible?

  • Apparently you guys can’t read the entire article. Try again, without using imagination.

  • Corrupt extortion rip off politics

    Almost like it was a little message,. Look all of us guberment berocracy rip offs are sticking together to rip all you off for whatever we can whenever we can.fuck these theives.take there power Trip and cram it in there backsides.the guy was trying to save his house the bank had been eroding away was getting close he decided to try to reinforce the bank.maybe he didn’t go about it the way he should’ve but probably didn’t have the 75000 it would have cost him to get all the berocracy PERMITS before he could Evan rent the equipment to do the work.thats how the rip off agency’s do us.especially the Humboldt county planning dep. Need a permit to breath air next.

    • Keep electing and appointing them and I’m sure they will find a fine to do.

    • Things that make you go hmm

      He wasn’t trying to save his house!! he doesn’t live down in his gravel pit 😄
      Where do you live ⁉️

    • In my 1911 I trust

      Dude there is no house down in the gravel pit. I live right there and fish right down by Fisher Rd. Get your facts straight. Dude was diverting the Van Dozen so he could pull more gravel out of it which = more $$$ to him. No different than a greedy mega grow except he diverted an entire river instead of a little creek, huh.

      • Tom Bess many years ago was doing the same thing. Their reason was removing gravel to make a channel for salmon in the fall. Some of you remember the bank hole upriver from Bess’s house. My favorite fishing hole back then. The hole ended up gone because of the water being diverted.

      • the misadventures of bunjee

        If you look on Google Earth, you can clearly see where the “erosion control” was dumped. It’s smack in the middle of the flood plain, as if that’s going to control anything come November through March. The river will merely carve a new channel around it, or quite possible back up behind some of the interim abutments that were created.

        • What river? Do you mean dry creek ,lmao, no river no channel, are you high, you need water to have a river lol,this shit is too funny,van duzen is just a drainage ditch, because it has too many plants to support

  • estimated minimum of 1,300 cubic yards of coarse concrete material and river gravels
    will be excavated at the four identified locations, resulting in temporary impacts to 0.26
    acres of stream bed and bank. These materials will be loaded into dump trucks and hauled
    approximately 1.3 miles to a permanent storage location at the Van Duzen River Ranch
    stockpile yard.

    • Lets see a before and after picture of this rip rap separating Ranch/ Farm land from river bed, permanent stock pile at VRR. Sounds like it will make good Rat and Skunk habitat for the next few hundred years.

    • That’s a large amount of concrete… I understand what he was doing and why he didn’t want to pay for very expensive large boulders, but damn that is a lot of concrete. That will cost him a fortune to remove. The restoration plan he has to implement will work better and be cheaper than rock armoring it again if he could.

    • In my 1911 I trust

      What about all the oil as grease that has been dumped into the river from him running heavy equipment in the river? Backhoes leak oil like a sieve. Gotta grease the boom every night after work. Run that shit in the river and there is no grease on the boom by evening, regrease and repeat. Where’s his $70,000 a day fine for hazardous materials entering the water way?

  • @ tnt,

    The State does not define mj or cannabis. All the vigilantes with a badge are doing is eradicating HEMP plants.

    “Some of my finest hours have been spent on my back veranda, smoking hemp and observing as far as my eyes can see.” -Thomas Jefferson

  • In my 1911 I trust

    Looks like grounds for an abatement notice. The guy basically diverted the whole Van Duzen. This has been a problem for a long time. When I fish down river from his gravel mine I can see grey clay silt streams coming off of all the crap he dumped in the river. No he hasn’t cleaned a single block of concrete out of the river since this happened either. Yet no abatement notice and no $10,000 a day fines. All he has to pay is 10 grand. Really? This is an incorporated gravel mine and it only gets fined $10,000 whereas private citizens growing a plant get $10,000+ per day! I’m sorry but even the absolute largest, most environmentally destructive grow in the history of Humboldt County has never diverted an entire river. If they did there would be hell to pay.

    • What in the hell?? You see “grey silt streams” , crazy because I put in lots of hours on that river and have yet see what you speak of. Also, where is this “diverted the whole Van Duzen” ?

  • I’m so damned confused about all the gravel operation comments. Where have you people been? You do know there are several gravel operations in the area? There is actually another gravel mining operation at the 101 Van Duzen bridge. That one is ok, but the one up river is not? Please help me understand

    • the misadventures of bunjee

      Some are kept up better than others, much like the homes on our streets. Some homes look great and are well maintained, others are not.

  • The roads aren’t being maintained and repaired. Huge stacks of gravel set alongside the Eel just north of Fortuna -you can see them clearly when going south on 101. They’ve been there so long that plants and greenery are growing from them.

    $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
    the funny money is what it’s all about.

  • Humboldt Classism

    In Mendocino the County permitted an asphalt plant right along the Outlet Creek part of the Eel River on Covelo Road, the neighbors were complaining of the burning rubber smell and thick black smoke; as rubberized asphalt was being produced, not only that but the County fought hard to keep this asphalt plant on line so the county could buy cheap asphalt and caltrans could as well. The county did not care if neighbors were getting sick, cheap asphalt, tax revenue, industry, they did not care that the outlet creek is the outlet for Willits and Laytonville Valley which hosts a large population of Coho and Chinook salmon as well as steelhead and summer trout, once again; cheap asphalt, tax revenue, industry. They did not care how the air quality affected the neighbors to this toxic plant, cheap asphalt, tax revenue, industry……
    A different set of rules applied, just like in this case, had it been a large corporate entity there would have been no complaints. Humboldt and Mendocino as entities hate the common man and yet they both worship the corporate elites and their corporations. Pure greed and discrimination

    • someone told me that Granite is part of the 3rd largest construction company in the World. their plant on the smith river is just as bad. decades of spraying the truck beds with diesel and dumping the excess out before getting loaded. great locations for that I am sure. the Mad the Russian, both had the same facilities right on the river bar and they were all owned or leased by Granite at one time.

      • it is true about them being huge. they also run a equipment rental company in ft mack ab renting massive heavy equipment to the strip miners up there as well as several large subidies in every state and are attempting to move into the eu as well. several defense contracts ect.

  • Good for them, this is awesome. I and some other have been fighting Jack Noble for awhile:

    https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/board_decisions/adopted_orders/water_quality/2007/wqo/wqo2007_0002.pdf

    Instream gravel operators on the South Fork Eel and other Wild & Scenic rivers in Humboldt County should take notice, including the Humboldt County Planning Commission, there’s finally a legal precedent.

    Thanks Kym for posting this…

    • Thank you for sharing the PDF, this whole issue needs to go further I knew all these years something haywire was going on off Fisher. I would really like the river back in all of it’s glory. Right at the Yager to Duzen! And there can’t be nitrate runoff in the Yager, it may be the only local river untouched by growers.

      • The sad part about the whole thing, Friends of the Van Duzen and Sal Steinberg would never get involved or lift a finger. Just like currently with Eel River Recovery Project (ERRP), they will not question the degrading affects of instream gravel extraction on the rivers and salmon habitat in Humboldt County.

        Maybe now, with this case, more people will speak up and not be afraid to make public comments and file a complaint. These cases do not go forward on there own, they only go forward when people care enough to protect something greater then themselves. These projects always start small, and as always, become to big to fail…

        • This is a home hitter for me, living right nearby too, having a father I don’t speak to maybe the biggest help as a NOAA salmon biologist in Seattle.

  • Hes as bad as a rapist

    He should have to pay professionals to properly restore the river. This is outrageous? I’d like to see this man broke and incarcerated.

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