The federal government is at it again: fighting to prevent citizens from improving their own property under the alleged authority of the Clean Water Act of 1972.
The latest target of tyranny is Peter and Francoise Smith, a retired couple from Lone Butte, New Mexico.
Here’s the on ramp to the story as provided by the Santa Fe New Mexican:
Gallina Arroyo is the name of the little stream that is giving the Smiths so much trouble.
Imagine being the sort of person who takes pride in your property, keeping it clean, being a good steward of the land only to have agents of the federal government come in and accuse you of violating federal law and threatening to fine you for your efforts.
“People dumped garbage down there, and there was a beetle infestation that took out a lot of the piñon,” Peter Smith said, as quoted by the Albuquerque Journal. He added that the some 600 dead trees he was removing were an undeniable fire hazard.
“The salt cedar was getting to the point it was so thick you couldn’t walk through it. So I cleaned up as much as I could and tried to maintain it with a tractor and a Bush Hog,” Smith told the Albuquerque Journal.
Now, imagine that the “law” the feds accuse you of breaking was designed to protect the “waters of the United States” and the dry stream bed you are clearing rarely has water flow through it at all.
Irrelevant, says the Army Corps of Engineers. According to the federal and state inspectors, the Gallina Arroyo has a “significant nexus” with the Rio Grande River. In case you’re wondering, the Rio Grande River is about 25 miles from where the mostly dry creek runs through the Smith’s property.
“Basically, it discharges, eventually, into the Rio Grande,” said William Oberle, project manager with the Corps’ Albuquerque District regulatory division, as quoted in the Albuquerque Journal. “It’s a tributary, to make it simple.”
According to documents filed in the lawsuit, the Gallina Arroyo may be mostly dry and far removed from any significant waterway, but when water does flow through it, that water occasionally empties into other arroyos, that in turn empty into bigger arroyos that eventually empty into the Rio Grande.
Lest anyone think Peter and Francoise are muckrakers and are out to “git the gubmint," comments made by Mr. Smith to the Santa Fe New Mexican make it clear that he respects the law. “The main point is that it is not the waters of the United States,” Smith said. “It would be different if it was a flowing river going through there, but the thing is dry.”