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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Briley Ditch lawsuit settled

Friday, October 3, 2003

Thad Shidler and Clay County has reached a settlement over Briley Ditch, also known as Briley Creek.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday that the county has agreed to pay $10,000 and place an additional $5,000 in an account to manage replacement wetlands.

Shidler says he will have to build a scenic area along CR 500W, north of Jasonville.

"As soon as we get the corn out, I have to turn about 8 acres of ground into a swamp," Shidler said in a telephone interview this morning. "Then, I have to build five photo stations like they have at Busch gardens or someplace; where people can stop and take photos.

"If anybody is getting stepped on, it's me," he said. "It's a shame the EPA and Department of Natural resources takes advantage of people like me."

Clay County Commissioners were not immediately available for comment.

The EPA alleged that in November 1997, without first obtaining a permit, Shidler excavated and channelized about a mile of Briley Creek and placed about 4,000 cubic yards of the dredged material into three acres of adjacent wetlands. The creek drains into Eel River, which has been identified as an impaired waterway by EPA and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

Shidler said the Indiana DNR had originally approved the work, but later decided it wasn't done correctly and then notified the EPA. Shidler felt the DNR "tattled" on him.

"When the EPA gets involved, someone has to pay," he said.

Shidler said it was too bad the county has to pay $15,000, "But, they will just raise taxes. I don't have anyone to get money from. It's a shame they take advantage of people like me and the county."

Shidler acknowledged the cost could have been much greater.

"They could have charged hundreds of thousands of dollars and had us fill in the creek," he said.

In 1999, EPA ordered the parties to restore the channelized creek and affected wetlands. The restoration was completed in 2002. The parties also agreed that by June 15, 2004, they would restore forested wetlands at another site owned by Shidler that had been converted to agricultural use and place it in a conservation easement.

The EPA says wetlands are environmentally valuable because they filter pollutants from water, recharge water supplies, reduce flood risks and provide fish and wildlife habitat. Wetlands include marshes, swamps, bogs and similar areas between water and dry land.

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