(Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story failed to provide an update of the issue. See update below.)
Submitted by the Washington State Department of Ecology
In April, the Washington State Supreme Court denied a request to review an October 2017 decision by the state Court of Appeals that affirmed a $55,000 fine and environmental restoration order issued by the Department of Ecology in July 2014 to Dave and Nancy Honeywell, owners of the Orca Dreams property located above False Bay on San Juan Island.
Ecology issued the penalty and order after the property owners illegally cut down 80 trees from 1.25 acres of marine shoreline and cleared the area down to bare earth at the Orca Dreams site that slopes to Puget Sound.
The property owners had earlier appealed Ecology’s fine and order to the state Shorelines Hearings Board and San Juan County superior court. These legal authorities also upheld Ecology’s actions. Now, all legal appeals are exhausted.
Ecology Shorelands and Environmental Assistance Program Manager Gordon White said, “Our state courts are clear: It is unacceptable for anyone to cut down trees and clear the fragile soil along our Puget Sound shorelines in this manner. These actions harm the people, salmon and orcas that rely on having clean, healthy marine shorelines. Our fines and orders are designed to deter future violators and protect the ecosystems we all enjoy.”
The Honeywells have replanted shoreline vegetation and are taking other environmental restoration actions at the Orca Dreams site. This includes submitting required monitoring reports so Ecology can evaluate continued compliance with the recovery plan. In addition, the property owners are working to pay the state penalty.
See a 2014 press release below for more information.
A property owner who cleared shoreline vegetation along the west side of San Juan Island faces $79,000 in fines for state water quality and shoreline violations and an order to restore the damage.
The Washington Department of Ecology has issued two penalties and a corrective action order to Orca Dreams, LLC for removing at least 80 trees from 1.25 acres of shoreline last fall. Orca Dreams is owned by David and Nancy Honeywells.
• A $24,000 water quality penalty cites Orca Dreams for starting work at the former Mar Vista resort without first receiving coverage under the state’s Construction Stormwater General Permit and for allowing discharge of polluting material, including logging slash, soil and organic debris into False Bay.
• A $55,000 shoreline penalty cites the company for illegally cutting down 80 trees among other significant amounts of shoreline habitat.
• A shoreline order directs Orca Dreams to submit a restoration plan for Ecology review by Aug. 31, 2014, to complete re-planting under that plan by Oct. 31, and to allow Ecology monitoring of the site for 10 years. The order is a companion to an earlier San Juan County restoration order.
“State law does allow for responsible waterfront development,” said Doug Allen, manager of Ecology’s Bellingham field office. “When the law is clearly violated, however, it’s our responsibility to take action, to protect shorelines and to be fair to property owners who abide by necessary permits.”
San Juan County initially inspected the site and fined Orca Dreams and its contractor, Allen Engel, $1,000 each for violating land grading provisions of the county code. The county and Department of Ecology have cooperated in their investigation and review of the case.
Ecology investigators observed vegetation cleared to bare soil on a steep bank with high erosion potential directly above the bay and found slash and debris on the beach at the tide line. Ecology also determined that best management practices for erosion and sediment control were not followed. The bay impacted by the illegal clearing is adjacent to a protected marine area and biological preserve owned by the University of Washington.
In December 2013, Ecology directed Orca Dreams to apply for coverage under the Construction Stormwater General Permit. Orca Dreams complied, received coverage, and has cooperated with Ecology’s investigation.
Because of this cooperation, Ecology opted to set the penalties below the maximum amounts possible, and focus instead on the completion of a comprehensive restoration plan. Ecology’s water quality penalty amount takes into consideration the number of days on which unauthorized actions occurred, the number of days of operation without a permit, and the level of environmental impact. The shoreline penalty takes into consideration the amount of damage inflicted on the shoreline, particularly the number of mature trees cut.
“It will take decades of growth and maturation for the slope to regain the ecological balance and function provided by the mature trees,” said Allen. “The shoreline penalty reflects the long effect of this environmental damage.”
The money from Ecology’s water quality penalties supports Ecology’s Coastal Protection Fund, which issues grants to public agencies for natural resource restoration projects. Funds from Ecology shorelines penalties go into the state’s general fund.
Ecology actions under state clean water law may be appealed within 30 days to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board. Actions taken by Ecology under state shoreline law may be appealed within 30 days to the Washington State Shorelines Hearings Board.