MOLALLA, Ore. -- A man is churning up salmon concerns and upset neighbors with events he's hosting on his Molalla property called "mud bogging."
If you travel along South Thomas Road in Molalla you'll pass hillside after hillside of lush vegetation, forest and horse pasture. You'll find blooming wildflowers and a babbling stream called Rock Creek. In nearly every direction it's Oregon at its finest.
However, if your drive passes 13256 South Thomas Road, you'll find a brown swath of mud. That's where Wesley Allen Ream has been hosting mud bogging events. According to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Ream began the mud bogs around April of last year. Traversing steep trails and navigating dense boulders, massive four wheel drive vehicles shower themselves in liquid earth.
It's loud, dirty and exciting according to enthusiasts. It's damaging nearby salmon habitat according to the DEQ.
Alerted to the South Thomas property by a concerned neighbor, the DEQ began investigating in January. Though mud bogging on private land is completely legal, casting soil into state water is not.
Running along the Ream property is a drainage that flows into Rock Creek. A salmon habitat, mud is a deadly addition to the ecosystem.
"The dirt that's carried in that water causes damage to fish gills and can cause fish kills," explained Rodney Weick of the DEQ.
DEQ investigators sent Ream a warning letter on January 30, 2009 requesting him to implement soil erosion measures and stop the mud bogging.
But on February 7, 2009 another event was held. Seventeen days later, scientists examined Rock Creek and found sediment turbidity 300 feet downstream to be 371% of normal. A pre-enforcement notice was sent on March 10, 2009.
On March 28th, another mud bog was held. Two days later on March 30th, scientists again measured Rock Creek. This time the sediment turbidity measured 246% of normal according to the DEQ.
Failing to prevent further soil erosion and failing to respond to the DEQ, Wesley Ream was issued a civil penalty fine of $22,448.
Citing potential litigation, Wesley Ream refuses to comment on the case other than to say he plans to appeal the fine and was only trying to give the community a place to have fun with their four-wheel drive vehicles.
But, neighbor Rick Atwood says Ream's events were anything but fun for those who live nearby.
"You're looking at or hearing it, it's like being next to a drag strip," says Atwood.
Rick Atwood acknowledges that he's the neighbor who turned Ream into the DEQ. He can't believe a once pristine piece of land now is a giant mud pit.
"The man doesn't have any qualms with destroying a beautiful piece of property. He has destroyed it," Atwood said.
Wesley Ream has 21 days to appeal the fine against him. If he fails to act, the DEQ's fine will also stand and Ream will be ordered to repair the land by replanting the hillside to stabilize the soil.