California contractor ordered to pay $225,000 penalty
A Ventura County, California contractor, Thomas Staben, and his construction company, TA Staben, Inc., will pay a $225,000 penalty for illegally dumping imported material into a Ventura County creek. Thomas Staben illegally filled Calleguas Creek with 40,000 cu. yds. of material – the equivalent of about 2,000 large dump truck loads. As part of the settlement, Staben will also spend at least $500,000 on restoration and mitigation projects, including removing the fill and restoring the creek’s natural functions. Calleguas Creek is the main freshwater source for the Mugu Lagoon Estuary, one of Southern California’s largest coastal wetland systems and home to various endangered species.
Between 2005 and 2006, Staben filled approximately five acres of Calleguas Creek, also known as Arroyo Las Posas, without the necessary Clean Water Act (CWA) permit despite several warnings by the Army Corps of Engineers to stop. The illegal fill substantially reduced the active floodplain in this portion of the creek, increasing potential flooding of adjacent properties and contributing to the bioaccumulation problems harmful to the health of endangered species and other wildlife in Mugu Lagoon. Staben, who has a history of noncompliance dating back to 1989, was cited by the Corps on various occasions for unpermitted work in Calleguas Creek and the Ventura River.
The creek has been the subject of extensive studies and protection efforts at federal, state and local levels due to its ecological significance and impaired water quality. As part of the restoration project Staben will remove the illegal fill material, restore the five acres of filled active floodplain, and create another two acres of vegetated embankment buffer between the floodplain and the upland property.
Restoration will allow the creek to perform the important ecological functions of recharging groundwater, retaining nutrients, attenuating floodwaters and providing habitats and movement corridors for wildlife. The project will also address long-term erosion problems of the adjacent property and reduce non-point source pollution.
Staben will also spend $150,000 on mitigation by paying into the Ventura River Watershed Habitat Restoration Fund to help fund the Rice Creek Re-Alignment Project, which aims to create about 9 acres of new stream habitats and help maintain water quality for steelhead in the downstream Ventura River.