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Published March 02, 2010, 05:52 PM

Judge rejects appeal in N.D. drainage case

A federal judge has rejected the latest appeal of Alvin Peterson, the retired Lawton, N.D., farmer, who has been fighting the federal government for years over his drainage of wetlands.

By: Stephen J. Lee, Grand Forks Herald

A federal judge in Fargo has rejected the latest appeal of Alvin Peterson, the retired Lawton, N.D., farmer, who has been fighting the federal government for years over his drainage of wetlands.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson on Monday issued an affirmation of the ruling by Magistrate Judge Alice Senechal in November 2008 in Grand Forks federal court that found Peterson guilty of misdemeanor charges of improperly draining wetlands under easement to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Peterson has refused to pay the $10,000 fine, which has put him in violation of the five years of probation that also are part of his sentence, said Cameron Hayden, the assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted the case.

So, Peterson’s probation revocation case is before Senechal’s court in Grand Forks now and could lead within weeks to more fines or a forced selling of Peterson’s property to pay the federal government, Hayden said.

Peterson began farming the land in 1955 and contested an easement to the Fish and Wildlife Service. In 2004, he was convicted of illegally draining wetlands. During his appeal of that case, the feds restored the wetlands. In 2007, after his appeal of that case to the circuit court failed, Peterson “pulled the plugs,” on the wetlands, draining them again and was recharged in the case, Hayden said.

Peterson could appeal Erickson’s recent ruling to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Reach Lee at (701) 780-1237; (800) 477-6572, ext. 237; or send e-mail to slee@gfherald.com.

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