Dam sediment release leads to costly fine

NORTH ELBA - A North Elba Ranch accused of releasing dam sediment into the AuSable River has plead guilty to a pair of Environmental Conservation Law misdemeanors.

Indian Pass Ranch, located on the Adirondack Loj Road in North Elba, Essex County, operates a dam on North Meadow Brook, a tributary of the AuSable River's West Branch.

In September 2007, Indian Pass Ranch allegedly discharged sediment from behind the dam into the brook. The sediments were carried downstream and entered the AuSable, said DEC spokesman David Winchell.

DEC's Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigation and DEC fisheries and water staff launched an investigation which eventually resulted in Indian Pass Ranch pleading guilty in North Elba Town Court to unlawfully disturbing the beds of the streams without a DEC permit and unlawfully repairing a dam without a DEC permit.

"Uncontrolled sediment discharges can damage aquatic habitat by silting over stream bottoms requiring enforcement action by DEC," stated Betsy Lowe, DEC Region 5 Director. "We need to be vigilant in the protection of the waters of Adirondacks and the rest of the State."

On May 4, Indian Pass Ranch and owner Joseph Barile had entered into an "Order on Consent" in resolution of DEC's administrative action for the same two violations and, additionally, for discharging matter into waters causing or contributing to a contravention of the water quality standards.

Under the plea settlement and the consent order, Indian Pass Ranch and Barile paid a total of $62,250 in fines and penalties. Of that, $22,500 was provided to the Au Sable River Association to be used for the conservation and maintenance of the river. In addition, Indian Pass Ranch must obtain a permit authorizing repairs of the dam and bring it into compliance with all dam safety regulations.

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