EPA takes action over permitDunn County is working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to correct problems it caused by rerouting the Little Knife River last year.
By: Ashley Martin, The Dickinson Press
Dunn County is working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to correct problems it caused by rerouting the Little Knife River last year.
The EPA has taken action against Dunn County for straightening a portion of the river without getting a permit, according to a press release issued Thursday.
The county allegedly violated the Clean Water Act and the EPA issued a compliance order to the county last week. If they don’t comply they may be fined.
“They were straightening and rerouting two roads and they completely filled and rerouted about 1,300 feet of the river itself,” said Laura Niles, EPA spokeswoman.
The river was rerouted about six miles northwest of Manning, she said.
The EPA is concerned because the rerouting shortened the river by about 200 feet, which may have impacted wildlife, Niles said. However, she said the EPA does not know whether the realignment damaged natural habitats.
“There was no specific study done as far as the wildlife impacts,” Niles said.
Ross Sundeen, Dunn County state’s attorney, said part of the river was straightened to accommodate a road construction project. He said the county didn’t realize it needed a permit.
“In many respects it was a miscommunication between the Dunn County Road Department and the (Army) Corps of Engineers,” Sundeen said.
He said it was the county’s understanding it did not need a permit because of the size of the Little Knife River. He said the river is not navigable, according state and federal laws, so they did not believe the county would need to apply for a permit.
However, the fact that the Little Knife pours into a navigable river changes regulations, Sundeen said.
“In this instance, the Little Knife River dumps into the Knife River, which correspondingly dumps into the Missouri River, which is water subject to the jurisdiction of the Corps of Engineers and then a whole different set of rules apply,” Sundeen said.
Niles said the Army Corps of Engineers discovered the river had been rerouted while inspecting the area prior to a different project in Dunn County. They then issued a notice of violation in September, she said.
“We’ve been investigating the case since last fall, but we didn’t let Dunn County know that we were pursuing enforcement activity until this last week,” Niles said.
Dunn County will have to create new channels close to the areas they filled in to correct any problems they may have created, Niles said. If the county does not comply with the EPA’s orders, they may be fined, she said.
Sundeen said Dunn County will comply with the EPA’s order and is getting an engineer to fix the problem.
However, he is unsure what must be done.
“I hope the road alignment would remain the same, but I don’t know that because it depends on that mitigation plan and what we have to do to remedy the concern that the EPA has out for us,” Sundeen said.
Since plans have not been made, Sundeen said it is impossible to know how much it will cost to fix the river.
Reinhard Hauck, Dunn County auditor, said the county will have to use money from its road department budget to cover the cost of adding channels to the river.
“We’ll have to fix what happened out there, but we’re still committed to the road projects and road systems as it is now,” Hauck said.
Niles estimates it would take three to four months to complete the project.
“We would hope to get it done this construction season, but weather and all sorts of things can impact that,” Sundeen said.