Vacation Property Owners Face Fine for Filling in Wetland

Robert and Gayle Greenhill, owners of more than 3,200 acres of land on the western shore of Moosehead Lake in Maine, face a possible U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fine of up to $157,500 for filling 1.5 acres of freshwater wetlands on their property, according to a June 17 press release.

The filling of wetlands, occurred during the expansion of an existing private airstrip and the development of a rock quarry, is a violation of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) and other federal requirements designed to protect wetlands.

This is the second violation of wetlands protections in CWA by the Greenhills. In 1997, the Greenhills constructed a trout pond on the property, altering approximately 0.4 of an acre without first seeking a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Greenhills also did not apply for the necessary permit for the current violation.

Prior to the most recent work, which took place between mid-2001 and 2005, the disturbed site consisted of a mosaic of evergreen and deciduous forest that contained freshwater wetlands. The projects that disturbed freshwater wetlands included a 985-foot extension on the western end of an existing runway and the development of a rock quarry off the eastern end of the existing runway. These activities resulted in the clearing, grubbing, grading, and filling of several segments of forested wetlands – totaling 1.5 acres – on the site.

"Wetlands are incredibly productive and important ecological areas," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England office. "The permit application process ensures that the impacts of development on wetlands are avoided or minimized and that unavoidable impacts are compensated for. All landowners – whether real estate developers or the owners of a vacation retreat – are required to follow appropriate steps before altering wetlands, to ensure that these valuable areas are protected. "

Undisturbed wetlands provide many environmental benefits, including wildlife habitat, groundwater discharge and recharge areas, sediment and toxin removal, and flood water storage. The wetlands filled were part of larger forested complexes and directly abutted two unnamed tributaries that flow to Moosehead Lake.

Under a related Administrative Order issued by in January 2006, the Greenhills are required to restore approximately one acre of the filled wetlands and to conduct compensatory mitigation by creating wetlands at another half acre. The restoration and mitigation work is ongoing.

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