Joe Robertson’s story is a cautionary tale. Last year Mr. Robertson, a 77-year-old disabled Navy veteran from Basin, was sentenced to 18 months in prison and fined hundreds of thousands of dollars. His crime? Digging ponds on his property after getting a state—but not a federal—permit.
It’s cautionary because under the Obama administration’s agenda to control all the water in the United States, the EPA had hoped to make cases like Mr. Robertson’s the new normal. Plans were in the works to expand federal authority to impose heavy punishments on unsuspecting property owners for relatively pedestrian activities, like installing fences or digging ditches.
To get there, the EPA attempted unilaterally to expand their authority under the Clean Water Act. As written, the Clean Water Act applies only to “navigable waters”—those running from state to state. Protection of other surface waters was left to state regulators, which is one reason Montana has some of the toughest water quality standards in the country.