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U.S. SAYS WETLANDS SUIT PARTIALLY SETTLED

 WASHINGTON, March 16 /PRNewswire/ -- The United States announced today that a partial settlement has been reached in a civil wetlands enforcement action against Windward Properties, Inc., which is the developer of a 3,400-acre private residential and commercial community in Alpharetta, Ga.
 U.S. Attorney Joe D. Whitley of Atlanta and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said the original lawsuit was filed Feb. 14, 1991, and alleged that Windward failed to obtain permits as required by Section 404 of the Clean Water Act before Windward filled various creeks and wetlands during construction of the community.
 The settlement, reflected in a partial consent decree lodged today in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, resolves three of five counts of the lawsuit. The three settled counts relate to the construction of road crossings in wetlands for Windward Parkway across Big Creek and Camp Creek, and to the clearing and draining of wetlands in a 23-acre parcel adjacent to Camp Creek. The settlement does not affect litigation on the other two counts of the complaint, which relate to the construction of a dam, artificial lake and a sports park in creeks and wetlands at the Windward site.
 Under the terms of the settlement, Windward will pay a $75,000 civil penalty, will restore the 23-acre site in accordance with a specified three-year restoration and monitoring plan, and will preserve approximately 55 acres of wetlands as mitigation for the two road crossing violations. The latter requirement will involve the preservation of wetlands already owned by Windward, as well as Windward's purchase and preservation of other wetlands within the Big Creek watershed. Windward will grant Alpharetta a conservation easement so that the wetlands will be preserved in perpetuity.
 Myles E. Flint, acting assistant attorney general for the Department of Justice's Environment and Natural Resources Division, said the partial settlement was "a significant development in our continuing effort to prosecute Clean Water Act violations. I am pleased that the substantial resources devoted to this litigation over the past two years have resulted in a partial settlement which will help deter future violations and provide tangible benefits to the local environment."
 Whitley said, "This settlement reflects the continuing commitment of the U.S. Attorney's office to vigorously enforce environmental laws in a manner which serves the interests of all Georgians."
 According to Patrick M. Tobin, acting regional administrator for EPA Region IV in Atlanta, the settlement "will provide a significant boost to the efforts of local and federal agencies to preserve our valuable wetlands in the face of rapid development in suburban Atlanta."
 Wetlands are among the most environmentally beneficial areas in the nation. They include marshes, swamps, bogs and similar areas. Wetlands harbor unique soils and plants that provide food and habitat for fish and wildlife, and play an important role in water purification, erosion control, flood control and recreation. Though wetland areas exist throughout the Southeast, they rapidly are being destroyed. Nationwide, approximately 458,000 acres of wetlands are being destroyed each year. EPA is particularly concerned about the protection of bottomland hardwood wetlands in Georgia (the type of wetlands impacted in this case), which are under increasing pressure from growth and development.
 Pursuant to department regulations, notice of the lodging of the consent decree with the court will be published in the Federal Register for a 30-day public comment period, after which time the consent decree may be entered by the court.
 -0- 3/16/93
 /CONTACT: Charlis Thompson, 404-347-3004, or Keith Holman, 404-347-2335, both of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency/


CO: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region IV; Windward
 Properties, Inc. ST: Georgia IN: SU: EXE


BN-BR -- AT007 -- 6697 03/16/93 16:05 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Mar 16, 1993
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