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For Immediate Release: Dec 09, 2008
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

ARMY CORPS KAYAKER CASE SETTLED

Biologist Who Demonstrated for the L.A. River Paddles off to Law School


Washington, DC — The case of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers biologist whose activism has helped shape national policy has drawn to a close. Heather Wylie had faced a proposed 30-day suspension for kayaking the Los Angeles River on her own time as part of a public protest demonstration against Corps policies weakening the Clean Water Act.

Pursuant to a settlement negotiated with attorneys at Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) who represented Ms. Wylie, the Corps has authorized the release of the following statement:

“Ms. Wylie has reached an agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers that resolves all outstanding issues between them. The agreement does not admit any liability or wrongdoing on the part of either party. Ms. Wylie will end her government service effective December 8, 2008.”

Ms. Wylie is now preparing to go to law school to become an environmental attorney and may soon find herself of the other side of the table facing the Corps. She released the following statement:

“I am delighted with this resolution and am looking forward to the next adventure in my life. I had a great time kayaking the LA River and we were successful at stopping the Corps from rolling back Clean Water Act safeguards on the LA and Santa Cruz Rivers systems. I urge every public servant that knows of betrayal to the public trust to contact PEER and actively bring attention to these issues – we must hold our public agencies accountable in order to bring about change.”

At the urging of Wylie and others, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency intervened this summer to in effect overturn Army Corps determinations severely weakening legal protections for both the L.A. and the Santa Cruz River (in Arizona). At issue is how much development and diversion can take place on these and other rivers throughout the arid West.

“The problems that Heather Wylie risked her career to address point to the need for the new Congress to act expeditiously to strengthen the Clean Water Act,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, referring to pending legislation by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and James Oberstar (D-MN). “During the Obama administration, PEER remains committed to helping conscientious public servants step forward when needed, as Heather did, to protect our resources and faithfully execute our laws.”

Attorneys Paula Dinerstein and Adam Draper of PEER represented Heather Wylie in challenging the proposed suspension and negotiating a resolution of the matter with the Corps.

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See the background of the Heather Wylie case

Read Heather Wylie’s op-ed in the LA Times

Look at the EPA intervention for the L.A. and Santa Cruz Rivers

View the new Santa Cruz River determination by EPA