A funny dam story
For 20 years, week after week, I have labored and delivered over articulate, well-reasoned legal review of the hot topics in the law. Remember the lawsuit by the little girl who failed to get a prize in her Cracker Jacks box? How about the supermarket checker who sued the checker on the next aisle for constantly passing gas? Leading edge legal commentary.
But no, you readers want funny stuff: Internet downloads and stupid courtroom questions asked by incompetent lawyers: “Was the victim dead when you conducted the autopsy, doctor?”
Well, here is a quasi-law case, supposedly an actual letter [abbreviated] sent by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to a Ryan DeVries:
Dear Mr. DeVries:
It has come to our attention that there has been recent unauthorized activity on the above-referenced parcel of property. You have been certified as the legal landowner/contractor who did the following unauthorized activity: construction and maintenance of two wood debris dams across the outlet stream of Spring Pond. A permit must be issued prior to the start of this type of activity.
The Department has been informed that one or both of the dams partially failed during a recent rain event, causing debris and flooding at downstream locations. We find that dams of this nature are inherently hazardous and cannot be permitted. The Department therefore orders you to cease and desist all activities at this location, and to restore the stream to a free-flow condition by removing all wood and brush forming the dams from the stream channel.
Failure to comply with this request or any further unauthorized activity on the site may result in this case being referred for elevated enforcement action.
David L. Price
This is the actual response sent back:
Dear Mr. Price:
Your certified letter has been handed to me. I am the legal owner of the property. A couple of beavers are in the (state unauthorized) process of constructing and maintaining two wood “debris” dams across the outlet stream of my Spring Pond. While I did not pay for, authorize, nor supervise their dam project, I think they would be highly offended that you call their skillful use of nature’s building materials “debris.”
I would like to challenge your department to attempt to emulate their dam project any time and/or any place you choose. There is no way you could ever match their dam skills, their dam resourcefulness, their dam ingenuity, their dam persistence, their dam determination and/or their dam work ethic.
As to your request, I do not think the beavers are aware that they must first fill out a dam permit prior to the start of this type of dam activity.
My first dam question to you is: (1) Are you trying to discriminate against my Spring Pond beavers or (2) do you require all beavers throughout this state to conform to said dam request? If you are not discriminating against these particular beavers, through the Freedom of Information Act, I request completed copies of all those other applicable beaver dam permits that have been issued.
I have several concerns. My first concern is – aren’t the beavers entitled to legal representation? The Spring Pond beavers are financially destitute and unable to pay for said representation – so the State will have to provide them with a dam lawyer. In my humble opinion, the Spring Pond beavers have a right to build their unauthorized dams as long as the sky is blue, the grass is green and water flows downstream. They have more dam rights than I do to live and enjoy Spring Pond. If the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection lives up to its name, it should protect the natural resources (beavers) and the environment (beaver’s dams).
So, as far as the beavers and I are concerned, this dam case can be referred for more elevated enforcement action. In conclusion, I would like to bring to your attention a real environmental quality (health) problem in the area. It is the bears! Bears are actually defecating in our woods. I definitely believe you should be persecuting the defecating bears and leave the beavers alone.
Being unable to comply with your dam request and being unable to contact you on your dam answering machine, I am sending this response to your dam office.
Stephen L. Tvedten
Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter-Simon, with offices in Truckee, South Lake Tahoe and Reno.
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