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U.S. EPA orders Northern California construction company to restore damaged wetlands / Wendt Construction illegally graded and filled wetlands near Strongs Creek, Eel River

Release Date: 10/23/2008
Contact Information: Wendy Chavez, 415/947-4248, chavez.wendy@epa.gov

Wendt Construction illegally graded and filled wetlands near Strongs Creek, Eel River

(San Francisco, Calif. -- 10/23/08) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ordered Dennis Wendt and Wendt Construction to restore sensitive wetlands near the Eel River that the company illegally graded and filled during construction activities at its housing development site in Fortuna, Calif.

The order requires the company to remove soil and other fill, restore wetland habitat, including vegetation with native species, implement measures to control sedimentation and erosion of bank areas, and obtain a permit for any future discharges to wetlands. The company must also implement a five-year monitoring program and submit annual monitoring reports to the EPA.
      “The EPA is committed to protecting our valuable rivers and streams from unauthorized filling and dumping,” said Alexis Strauss, the EPA’s Water Division director for the Pacific Southwest region. “Strongs Creek supports a critical habitat for a very diverse fish population, including rare and threatened species, such as Coho salmon and steelhead trout.”

      In late September 2007, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers inspected the property and discovered that Wendt Construction was filling and grading the wetlands along Strongs Creek, which leads to the Eel River. The Corps ordered the company to immediately stop unauthorized activities and remove the fill material by May. The company failed to comply with the order.

      The EPA, along with the Corps and the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, investigated the site in January and discovered significantly disturbed vegetation and soil surfaces throughout the property and fill material within the wetlands.

      Wetland areas provide habitat for endangered wildlife, reduce flood risks, and help maintain water quality in surface and groundwater. Under the Clean Water Act, any dredge and fill work in a wetland area or other water of the U.S. requires a permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. For more information on the EPA’s wetlands program, visit: http://www.epa.gov/region09/water/wetlands/index.html.
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