By Wes Helbling
Bastrop Daily Enterprise
Posted Mar 23, 2012 @ 07:30 AM
BASTROP, La. —
The USA Speedway has fulfilled the requirements of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to restore wetlands that were disturbed during its construction.
The USA Speedway is a dirt race track constructed in West Sterlington in 2009. The track came under investigation by the U.S. Corps of Engineers for failure to obtain the necessary Section 404 permit to discharge fill material into 2.4 acres of wetlands that is hydrologically connected to the Ouachita River, in violation of the federal Clean Water Act.
EPA Region 6 records show an administrative order was issued to Speedway owner Bobby Hobson in Aug. 2010 requiring him to remove the fill material as well as to “[r]estore the previously disturbed areas to the natural contours and elevations that existed prior to fill activities and revegetate with appropriate wetland species.”
While the restoration was completed in 2010, EPA Region 6 spokesman Dave Bary said the agency assessed Hobson an administrative penalty of $1,500 for the violation in January.
“Mr. Hobson has taken the necessary [restoration] action and paid the $1500 penalty,” said Bary. “The matter has been resolved from the EPA’s standpoint.”
The Clean Water Act violation remains an issue in a class action lawsuit against the USA Speedway, which Union Parish Clerk of Court records indicate is slated for a jury trial in October. Initially filed in 2010, the fifty-nine plaintiffs who live near the Speedway allege that dust and noise from the races pose “an unreasonable intrusion into the use and enjoyment” of their homes and have reduced their property values.
In a memorandum filed in January, plaintiffs’ attorney Clay Garside argues against the Speedway’s refusal to produce requested documentation regarding the Corps investigation on the grounds these items “do not relate to noise or dust.”
Garside writes, “In addition to being unlawful, Section 404 violations do relate to noise and dust disturbing surrounding neighbors. When the Corps considers whether to allow a property owner to fill in wetlands, it … specifically considers the potential impacts of the project to air quality and noise levels on surrounding property owners .. and might well prevent the project from going forward if there are significant adverse effects on these aesthetic values in the area.”
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