In a decision issued on December 9, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California granted the request of the Justice Department to direct John Sweeney and his company, Point Buckler Club LLC, to restore sensitive tidal channels and marsh they unlawfully harmed. The court’s decision follows an earlier order dated Sept. 1, 2020, when the court found defendants committed “very serious” violations of the Clean Water Act associated with the construction of a nearly mile-long levee without a permit.
The defendants’ violations occurred on Point Buckler Island, an island in the greater San Francisco Bay that Sweeney had purchased in 2011. The Island’s tidal channels and marsh are part of the Suisun Marsh, the largest contiguous brackish water marsh remaining on the west coast of North America. The Island is located in a heavily utilized fish corridor and is critical habitat for several species of federally protected fish.
When Sweeney acquired the Island, nearly all of it functioned as a tidal channel and tidal marsh wetlands system. Beginning in 2014, without a permit, Sweeney excavated and dumped thousands of cubic yards of soil directly into the Island’s tidal channels and marsh. This unlawful conduct, the court found, eliminated tidal exchange, harmed aquatic habitat and adversely impacted water quality.
In its detailed remedial decision, the court concluded that restoration is the appropriate goal, and an injunction is necessary to achieve it.
“Point Buckler Island is part of a vital tidal ecosystem, and we are pleased that the court agreed that defendants must undo the damage they caused,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
“This decision is a victory for the health of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Delta,” said Amy Miller, EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division Director for the Pacific Southwest Region. “We will remain diligent in ensuring vital local wetlands are protected from illegal dredging and filling activities.”
The case is styled United States of America v. John Donnelly Sweeney and Point Buckler Club, LLC, No. 2:17-cv-00112-KJM-KJN (E.D. Cal.). The court’s orders are available through the court’s website, www.caed.uscourts.gov.