Seattle -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Justice have reached an agreement with Suellyn Rader Blymyer and Uptrail Group, LLC, for violations of the Clean Water Act in Whatcom County, Washington.
Initially, a state employee noticed work to clear and fill an area of forested wetlands and land used for agriculture, primarily blueberry fields. Further investigation found that approximately 10 acres of wetlands had been compromised by excavation of a 100 foot trench, removal of trees and vegetation and other land clearing activities. The wetland destruction was related to the conversion of the property to prepare it for blueberry farming. The landowners did not obtain the required Clean Water Act Section 404 permit to work in wetlands prior to starting work.
“Permits act as safeguards for valuable wetlands and habitats while letting projects proceed,” said Michael Szerlog, Manager of the Aquatic Resources Unit in the EPA Seattle Office. “In this case, the owners did not request a permit and the region lost wetlands that provide water quality benefits for wildlife and the community.”
Wetland and stream ecosystems play a critical role in regional water quality by filtering polluted upland runoff. In addition, wetlands prevent flooding and provide important habitat for fish and wildlife species including endangered salmon species, migratory and resident birds, and small mammals.
“As part of the settlement, the property owner will restore these high quality wetlands,” said J.E. (Sam) Ryan, Director of Planning and Development for Whatcom County. “It is everyone’s responsibility to protect our wetlands because they serve an important function for the community by filtering the water we depend on.”
The landowner has agreed to complete a wetlands restoration on nearly 12 acres of property with the goal of restoring the function of forested wetlands that were harmed or disrupted. The landowner has also agreed to place legally-binding restrictions on approximately 19 acres of property in order to conserve the wetland restoration.
In addition, the owner will pay a civil penalty of $210,000.
For more information on Clean Water Act wetland protections and permits, visit: http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/guidance/cwa/dredgdis/