Landowner May Pay $32,500 Per Day for Damaging Wetlands, Streams

An Alaska landowner is facing penalties from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for illegally filling wetlands and streams on his property in Anchorage, the agency reported. By filing its Clean Water Act complaint against landowner David R. Sweezey, EPA said it can now seek penalties of up to $32,500 per day of violation and administrative penalties of up to $11,000 per day for each violation.

According to EPA, in July 2003, Sweezey used heavy equipment to clear, grade, and fill wetlands and streams to create a pond on his property without first obtaining a required Clean Water Act Section 404 permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The landowner's actions seriously damaged 300 linear feet of nearby stream channels and 0.5 acres of wetlands on his property, EPA said.

In May 2005, EPA issued a Compliance Order to Sweezey requiring him to restore the streams and wetlands on the site, which is adjacent to Craig Creek and drains into Cook Inlet. The agency says that since that time the landowner has refused to restore the streams and wetlands, even after multiple attempts by EPA to comply and repair the damage. According to Greg Kellogg, deputy director of the EPA Alaska Operations Office, it is because Sweezey has failed to cooperate that the agency has decided to pursue penalties in this case.

"Alaska's wetlands aren't just valuable habitat for fish and wildlife, they contribute substantially to Alaska's economy," Kellogg said. "Wetland construction should only be undertaken with great care after securing the necessary permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. If you work in wetlands, you must obey the law or you will face fines."

For more information about the Clean Water Act Section 404 wetland regulatory authority, go to www.epa.gov/owow/wetlands/pdf/reg_authority_pr.pdf.

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