FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE TUESDAY, DECEMBER 19, 1995

ENR (202) 616-2777 TDD (202) 514-1888

STATE OF ALASKA SETTLES FEDERAL CLEAN WATER LAWSUIT REGARDING COPPER RIVER WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney for Alaska, and the Alaska District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) today announced the filing of a consent decree with the State of Alaska and the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities ("DOT/PF"). The consent decree resolves violations of the Clean Water Act committed by DOT/PF during 1991 road construction along the Copper River between Chitina and Cordova, Alaska. The Environment and Natural Resources Division and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Anchorage filed the lawsuit on February 26, 1992, on behalf of the Corps. In the underlying lawsuit, the Corps alleged that the State had violated the Clean Water Act by discharging dredged or fill material at approximately 140 separate locations along the Copper River and into various tributaries and adjacent ponds and wetlands. The consent decree, filed today in U.S. District Court in Alaska, finalizes a settlement that includes the following terms: (1) restoration of areas that suffered environmental harm; (2) development of a program to educate DOT/PF personnel about the requirements of the Clean Water Act; (3) establishment of an Environmental Compliance Coordinator or Consultant to coordinate Clean Water Act permitting issues; (4) a commitment to broadcast televised public service announcements about the importance of complying with the Clean Water Act; (5) an admission that DOT/PF violated the Clean Water Act; (6) an injunction from further violations of the Clean Water Act; and (7) a civil penalty totalling $600,000, the majority of which will be assessed through mutually agreed upon environmental projects designed to benefit the Copper River watershed. The settlement makes it clear that further road work along the Copper River corridor may now proceed, but only in compliance with federal laws and regulations, including the Clean Water Act. Robert C. Bundy, U.S. Attorney for Alaska, commented, "I think this settlement represents a spirit of cooperation between the State and federal government in addressing environmental issues. It shows confidence in the current Alaska State administration's concern for a balanced approach to environmental matters. Both sides had to compromise to accomplish this settlement. Now the parties can put this litigation behind them

and use this settlement to help them work more cooperatively." Lois J. Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division, said, "This case is an example of the importance of enforcing the wetlands provisions of the Clean Water Act to protect pristine locations such as the area of the Copper River between Chitina and Cordova. Under the agreement, the State will take appropriate restoration measures and will take steps, such as training its workers, to assure that it will not violate these laws in the future." Colonel Peter A. Topp, Alaska District Engineer for the Corps, added, "The Clean Water Act prohibits the discharge of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States, including the Copper River, its tributaries, and nearby ponds and wetlands, without a permit issued by the Corps. This case shows that those who want to work in such areas must obtain required approvals and that the laws and regulations designed to protect those areas must be followed. I hope that we now can work together with the State and other parties to prevent similar violations in the future." Trustees for Alaska, a public interest environmental law firm, along with several other citizens' groups, also had filed a lawsuit alleging that the State violated the Clean Water Act in connection with its 1991 work on the route between Chitina and Cordova. Those groups are also part of the settlement. #### 95-636