Robert's stream case dismissed

A Roberts man accused of attempting to stop the flow of a stream along Rock Creek by throwing rocks into it had his case dismissed last week by the Carbon Conservation District (CCD) board at their monthly meeting at the USDA Building, Joliet. Donald Hornberger, who owns ¾ miles of Rock Creek frontage, had received a letter from Joe LeFebvre, Chairman of the Carbon Conservation District, in March this year, stating that Hornberger had “initiated a project on Rock Creek without the written consent of the supervisors. A project engaged in by a person without prior approval of the board of Supervisors is a public nuisance pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. 75-7-122. Specifically you are alleged to have installed rocks and debris on a channel of rock Creek without a 310 permit.”

Hornberger vehemently denied any violation of a 310 permit stating he hadn’t instigated a project and therefore didn’t need a 310 Permit, and hadn’t thrown any rocks into a channel that runs through his land. A 310 Permit allows an individual to work in or near a stream on public or private land and allows for alterations or modifications with minimal soil erosion while preserving the streams integrity. The CCD board was to decide at the meeting on June 13 whether to refer the case to the County Attorney to prosecute it as a misdemeanor violation or issue a civil penalty carrying a potential fine of $12,000 for Hornberger. A 310 Permit violation carries an immediate $500 fine, with up to a $500 fine every day the violation continues.

However, in a surprising turnaround, the board voted to dismiss the case on the grounds that the debris in the channel had almost gone. Tisa Wright, District Supervisor for Carbon Conservation, said she, “Didn’t see any obstruction to the water flow” while Jason Nelson, Fish, Wildlife and Parks, felt Mother Nature was going to take care of it. Both Wright and Phil Nardinger, supervisor for Carbon Conservation District, agreed that nature would remove the impediments without them having to go and physically remove them. Allen Nelson, Supervisor for Area 1 for Carbon Conservation District, said that “Any evidence we had is washed away, and I don’t think it would be beneficial to us or Don or either one to go any further with this. I move we drop it and go from there.” A motion was made to dismiss the case and was passed. Wright added that 310 policy needs to be followed and “in the future we need a permit. That’s the law.”

Penny Landon, CCD Administrator, suggested a “deferred civil penalty, where you could assess a penalty, defer it, on the basis that Don would agree not to be in a 310 violation for a period of three - five or whatever years and he would not have to pay a penalty. Or he pays a portion of the penalty and defers the rest. As we have done in the past.” Nardinger responded, “I figure he’s come to us with a new 310 (Permit for another project) and we’re all in agreement there is nothing here any more and I think assessing a penalty will not be in our favor and won’t do us any good.” A delighted Hornberger said he was “so proud” of the outcome. At this same meeting Hornberger was also applying for a 310 Permit for riprapping another area of the river bank.