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Washington Farmer Faces Penalty for Pollution that Killed Threatened Steelhead

December 03, 2019

Endangered Species Act violation carries civil costs for harming listed species.


A Bellingham farmer has been assessed $7,500 in civil penalties for discharging animal waste into a restored creek, killing native Puget Sound steelhead, a threatened species.

The NOAA Office of General Counsel last month assessed the penalty against Harold Carbee for discharging organic waste into Anderson Creek near Bellingham in May 2018. Anderson Creek supports steelhead and salmon and flows into the Nooksack River, a drinking water source for the city of Lynden.

NOAA and Carbee settled the case for a reduced penalty of $6,750.

The case began when a local citizen reported wastewater flowing into the creek, and became a joint investigation by NOAA Fisheries’ Office of Law Enforcement, the Ferndale Police Department, Nooksack Indian Tribe, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Washington Department of Ecology. The penalty was issued under provisions of the Endangered Species Act that allow for civil penalties for violations.

The spill into the creek lasted at least 12 hours. The investigation found more than 300 dead fish including 89 threatened steelhead smolts, coho salmon, and other species. The spill affected an area of the creek with nine steelhead nests, or redds.

Anderson Creek has been the focus of some $9 million in restoration funding for two new bridge crossings that improve passage for threatened Puget Sound steelhead.

“We owe it to everyone who works on salmon and steelhead recovery to make sure their hard work does not go to waste,” said Greg Busch, Assistant Director for NOAA Fisheries’ Office of Law Enforcement, West Coast Division. “Restored habitat such as Anderson Creek is the key to the recovery of these fish, and we need to protect it.”

Last updated by Office of Law Enforcement on December 05, 2019