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State cites shoreline 'violations' at Mar Vista clearcut; Ecology issues demands
An alleged clearcut of about 1.7 acres of shoreline at the former Mar Vista resort has stirred up a flurry of enforcement activity by local and state officials.
As before-and-after photos surfaced showing the extent of tree-cutting at the former resort near False Bay on San Juan Island, state and local investigators collected data, interviewed people involved and began the process of determining mitigation and restoration alternatives.
Bob Fritzen of the Department of Ecology e-mailed a report of his agency’s response:
“We recently sent a warning letter to the responsible party for violating the state’s Water Pollution Control Act,” Fritzen said. “They’re in violation of discharging stormwater associated with construction activity greater than one acre to surface waters of the state without authorization under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Construction Stormwater General Permit. The location of the clearing and time of year are of particular concern. We requested the facility develop and implement a plan to control erosion and sedimentation in order to prevent turbid discharges to waters of the state. We also requested the responsible party apply for a CSGP by January 10. Failure to do so may result in issuance of an administrative order and/or civil penalties of up to $10,000 per day, per violation.”
The Department of Ecology is the principle state agency involved, although the Department of Natural Resource and the Department of Fish and Wildlife may have some concurrent jurisdiction. If any threatened or endangered plants or animals are involved, the federal Environmental Protection Agency may become active in the case.
Although local code enforcement personnel are maintaining a discreet silence concerning the ongoing investigation, San Juan County Prosecutor Randy Gaylord responded to questions about the next steps in the enforcement process.
Gaylord said, “The primary objective is to obtain compliance.” He pointed out that the state shoreline management act and the local shoreline master program grant legal enforcement authority to the prosecuting attorney and attorney general, in coordination with the county code enforcement officer and other state agencies.
Gaylord also stated that criminal charges are possible and “have been filed in the past when the offender was aware of the requirement of the law and acted anyway [or] where civil actions have been unsuccessful at obtaining compliance.”
Fines and penalties can be assessed by the code enforcement officer, or by a judge in either a civil or criminal case, Gaylord said.
Messages left for Dave and Nancy Honeywell, the new owners of the property, and Bob Elford, the realtor who closed the transaction and who is performing some management function at Mar Vista, have not been returned.