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EPA CONTINUES ENFORCEMENT TO PROTECT HIGH QUALITY WETLANDS IN STATESBORO, GA.

 EPA CONTINUES ENFORCEMENT TO PROTECT HIGH QUALITY WETLANDS IN
 STATESBORO, GA.
 ATLANTA, April 15 /PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is continuing enforcement of an Administrative Order issued to Ray Hendley, a developer in Statesboro, Ga., for violating the Clean Water Act, rejecting his public claim that he didn't know he was violating federal wetlands law when he built houses in a cypress swamp.
 Hendley's filling of wetlands for development in defiance of a Corps of Engineers (COE) Cease and Desist Order caused flooding in a nearby neighborhood. EPA has ordered him to restore the filled area and recently met with him to discuss the implementation of the previously approved restoration plan.
 EPA Southeastern Regional Administrator Greer C. Tidwell said: "Not only are innocent parties renting from Mr. Hendley impacted by his unauthorized activities, but owners of nearby homes on uplands have experienced flooding problems resulting in adverse impacts. We are committed to the protection of these high-quality wetlands in the Southeast and will not tolerate their deliberate destruction.
 "Mr. Hendley's public claims that he was unaware that he was building in wetlands are totally inconsistent with the fact that he had been issued a Cease and Desist Order by the Corps of Engineers before he built two of the houses," Tidwell added.
 Congressman Lindsay Thomas stated, "I am pleased to see that this difficult matter is finally being resolved." Tidwell complimented Thomas for being a conservation-minded supporter of the protection of high-quality wetlands such as the cypress swamps in south Georgia.
 Col. Donald R. Holzwarth, district engineer, Savannah District, Corps of Engineers, said, "The previous district engineer asked EPA to take the lead in this enforcement case, and I fully support the actions they are taking."
 The enforcement case began in November of 1989, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District, discovered Hendley clearing land and grading and filling in a cypress swamp as part of a residential development. The COE issued a Cease and Desist Order in December of 1989 to Hendley, ordering him to stop all work on site. Hendley failed to respond to this order and continued to fill the wetlands and build additional houses. On a follow-up inspection in January of 1990, the COE found at least one more house had been completed and the foundations laid for several more. The COE notified Hendley a second time of his continuing flagrant violations of the Clean Water Act. In direct defiance of the COE's order and their authority to enforce the provisions of the Clean Water Act, Hendley continued to fill in the swamp; and by May of 1990, five small houses, a pond, two roads and seven foundations had been illegally built in 12 acres of cypress swamp.
 Because of Hendley's flagrant violation of the Clean Water Act, the COE requested that EPA take the enforcement lead on the case. In July of 1990, EPA issued Hendley an Administrative Order to stop all work and restore the site to pre-project conditions. In negotiations with EPA, Hendley agreed to move the two houses which were illegally built after he received the Cease and Desist Order from the COE. In addition, Hendley agreed to restore the remaining impacted wetlands to their original condition by removing the pond, the foundations and the roads, and planting native wetland species such as cypress, sweet bay and water tupelo. An adjacent 20-acre cypress swamp will also be preserved as mitigation for the loss of wetlands function on the site.
 The two houses will not be moved until the current tenants receive proper notice and arrangements have been made for their relocation. EPA is engaged in discussions with Hendley regarding the moving of the houses, and it is anticipated that the removal of the houses and the remaining fill material should be completed by July 1992.
 The wetlands impacted by Ray Hendley are part of Little Lott's Creek, a braided stream system vegetated primarily by cypress trees. This system provides important natural functions such as flood control, water quality maintenance, and natural resource production which benefit the public. Some of the functions benefiting water quality include storage and slow release of storm or flood waters, uptake of excess nutrients and pollutants, and sediment stabilization. Other functions benefit natural resources by providing habitat for fish and wildlife which may be used for foraging, roosting, breeding, nesting, rearing young, and other activities which promote balanced populations of recreationally and commercially important species. EPA considers the enforcement of laws protecting this and similar wetland areas to be a top priority.
 -0- 4/15/92
 /CONTACT: Charlis Thompson of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region IV, 404-347-3004/ CO: United States Environmental Protection Agency ST: Georgia IN: SU: EXE


EA-BN -- AT020 -- 8939 04/15/92 16:55 EDT
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Date:Apr 15, 1992
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