EPA Orders Washington Landowner to Restore Wetlands

EPA has issued a Compliance Order to Phil Smith of Chehalis, Washington, to address violations of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA).  The violations occurred at Smith’s 190-acre property 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, 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, EPA has directed Smith to complete a Restoration and Mitigation Work 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 CWA requires developers to avoid, minimize, and mitigate the impacts of development on U.S. wetlands and waters.

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,” Eaton said . "Impacts to wetlands extend beyond the individual landowner – they affect the entire surrounding community.”

Smith has 45 days from receipt of this order to submit a “plan” to the EPA. The CWA 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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