Thursday April 4, 2024

1011 Now

A Sandhills rancher and Cherry County won’t be fined for unleashing a deluge of sand into a remote trout stream, but they will have to take several steps to prevent further damage.

In April 2020, as heavy rains flooded pastures in Cherry County, rancher Dick Minor with the help of county crews dug a 2½-mile-long drainage ditch to the Snake River south of Merriman.

Rains followed, carving a chasm into the fragile soil and washing an estimated 1.6 million tons of sand and debris into the Snake, in violation of the Clean Water Act.

It turned a narrow, deep stream that sustained trout into a flat, sandy waterway similar to the Platte River 3 miles downstream.

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved a work plan submitted by Minor and the county to avoid further damage.

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