USA: Illegal Dredging at Lake Montauk Results in $130,000 in Penalties

Following an investigation into the illegal dredging of a Montauk marina, the owner of the marina and two local marine contractors have agreed to a $130,000 penalty and to sample and remove illegally dredged material from two associated sites, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation ( DEC ) Regional Director Peter A. Scully announced today. The penalty will include payments that will directly benefit the Town of East Hampton’s Lake Montauk hard clam enhanced restoration project.

“The protection of tidal wetlands is an important priority for DEC and the successful conclusion of this case is a testament to how serious the Department considers these types of violations,” Regional Director Scully said. “This case was brought to a successful conclusion thanks to the work of DEC staff and law enforcement, as well as the concerned citizens whom played a vital role in bringing this case to light. Not only have the responsible parties been properly prosecuted, but also additional resources will be directly contributed in order to enhance the area that has been impacted by these illegal operations.”

According to Scully, during the outset of this case, DEC received a complaint from the Group for the East End that a road had been constructed in a tidal wetland at Rick’s Crabby Cowboy Marina, located on the northeast side of Lake Montauk. The road had been built to allow an excavator and oversized dump truck to drive into the regulated tidal wetland to dredge the marina. The Group also provided photographs showing that a dewatering lagoon had also been constructed, complete with discharge pipes that channeled silt and sediment into Lake Montauk.

DEC had issued a permit in 2004 authorizing the owner to do repair work in and around the marina area, including replacement of a bulkhead and performing maintenance dredging. However, the original permit expired in 2009 and DEC staff, upon investigation, determined that the dredging activities underway at the site were much different than what had been originally authorized. These activities included:

The expansion of a natural sandbar for the creation of a road on which heavy, non-permitted equipment could conduct dredging activities.

The use of hydraulic dredging equipment not authorized by the expired permit.

The creation of a diked area for dewatering of dredged sludge dredged material, with discharge pipes releasing water, silt and sediment into the wetland.

The placement of dredge spoils on a sandbar in the tidal wetland for dewatering purposes.

In addition, while investigating these violations, DEC was alerted to more activity at the site in mid-June — after DEC had directed that no further work be conducted apart from the restoration of the sandbar. Further violations included the removal of dredged material from the marina site to a mining facility in Bridgehampton. The mining facility’s permit does not allow acceptance of solid waste at the site, but the site accepted both dredge spoils and construction and demolition material.

Three individuals were charged as a result of the investigation: Richard Gibbs, owner of Rick’s Crabby Cowboy Marina, Keith Grimes, owner of the contracting firm Keith Grimes Inc., and Susan Grimes, owner of Sagaponack Sand and Gravel located at 32 Haines Path. The three individuals were issued a total of 20 notices of violation, ranging from dredging without a permit, to building a road in a tidal wetland without a permit, to storing construction and demolition debris without a permit.

In a consent order executed on Dec. 6, the respondents agreed to a penalty of $130,000, with $50,000 payable to DEC and $25,000 payable as an Environmental Benefit Project ( EBP ) to support the Town of East Hampton’s Lake Montauk aquaculture project, which is dedicated to the restoration of hard clams and American oysters. The remaining $55,000 of the penalty will be suspended if the respondents comply with all conditions of the order, which includes sampling of dredge spoil that was stored both at the marina location and the Sagaponack Sand and Gravel location. These piles must be sampled and removed to an approved facility in accordance to a strict schedule outlined in the order.

Individuals spotting illegal environmental activities are encouraged to call DEC’s Environmental Conservation Officers at ( 631 ) 444-0250 on weekdays during business hours, and 1-800-TIPP-DEC ( 1-877-457-5680 ) at all other times to report such suspected activities. Also, DEC’s new online form for citizens to report environmental violations are located on DEC website and can now be utilized by the public. For more information on DEC programs and regulations, please visit DEC’s website.

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Source: media-newswire, December 15, 2010

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