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EPA Orders Winlock, Washington, Landowner to restore an estimated 100 acres of wetlands

Release Date: 06/09/2008
Contact Information: Michael Szerlog, EPA/Seattle, (206) 553-0279, szerlog.michael@epa.gov Tony Brown, EPA/Seattle, (206) 553-1203, brown.anthony@epa.gov

(Winlock, Wash. June 9, 2008) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a Compliance Order to Mr. Phil Smith, of Chehalis, Washington, to address violations of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA). The violations occurred at Mr. Smith’s 190 acre property (Site) along Interstate 5 in Lewis County near Winlock, Washington. This Site is adjacent to Lacamas Creek, a salmon bearing stream which drains into the Cowlitz River.

EPA alleges that in summer and fall of 2007, Mr. Smith failed to obtain required permits before using heavy equipment to clear and fill an estimated 100 acres of wetlands. These wetlands contained sensitive plant species and special habitat features. In January, 2008, EPA issued Mr. Smith a Compliance Order requiring him to cease and desist all further activity.

Under the Compliance Order issued today, EPA has directed Mr. Smith to complete a Restoration and Mitigation Work Plan (“Plan”). The Order requires Mr. Smith to restore the Site to its original condition to the maximum extent possible. Restoration activities must include:

    • removing all of the unpermitted fill material from the wetlands; and
    • restoring the Site to its pre-disturbance condition.
According to Tom Eaton, Washington Operations Office Director for EPA, the Clean Water Act requires developers to avoid, minimize and mitigate the impacts of development on our nation’s wetlands and waters.

“This is especially important in areas like southwestern Washington,” said Eaton. “Wetlands help prevent flooding, stabilize flows and provide valuable wildlife habitat. This winter was especially tragic for Lewis County, which was declared a federal disaster area after record flooding damaged or destroyed 1,000 homes, ruined millions of dollars of property and closed parts of I-5 for weeks.”

The goal of the CWA Section 404 permitting program is to ensure no-net-loss of wetlands. EPA’s wetlands program seeks to insure an over-all net increase in wetlands nationally.

“Rather than completely destroying these wetlands, the property owner should have received a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers,” said EPA’s Eaton. “That way they could have complied with the Clean Water Act’s requirements to avoid, minimize and mitigate damage to wetlands. Impacts to wetlands extend beyond the individual landowner – they affect the entire surrounding community.”

Mr. Smith has 45 days from receipt of this order to submit a “Plan” to the EPA. The Clean Water Act authorizes civil penalties of up to $32,500 per day of violation and administrative penalties of up to $11,000 per day for each violation.

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For more information about the importance of wetlands in flood control and habitat conservation, go to:

http://www.epa.gov/owow/wetlands/ ,
http://www.epa.gov/owow/wetlands/functions.html

For more information about the CWA wetland regulatory authority, visit:
http://www.epa.gov/owow/wetlands/pdf/reg_authority_pr.pdf