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Berwick, Maine Sod Farm to Pay $27,500 Fine, Restore Wetlands and Donate Land Easements
Release Date: 07/22/2003
Contact Information: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1008
BOSTON – A Berwick, Maine sod farm has agreed to pay a $27,500 penalty and to restore 54.5 acres of destroyed wetlands in Berwick to settle claims by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that it illegally dredged and filled these wetlands.
In a settlement reached recently with EPA, the Tuckahoe Turf Farm and the Tuckahoe Land Investment Co. also agreed to create conservation easements on two parcels in Berwick, including 108 acres of ecologically significantly land. This environmental project estimated to be worth more than $150,000.
The two parcels will permanently protect habitat for the Blandings turtle, a state listed endangered species, and the spotted turtle and black racer, which are state listed threatened species. The public will be given access to the land for hiking and other low impact activities.
"We are pleased that we were able to reach an agreement that will restore these wetlands and permanently protect ecologically significant habitat," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England Office. "This case illustrates that EPA will pursue wetlands violators and make sure valuable habitat is restored. It also illustrates that it is far less costly to comply with our nation's environmental laws than to violate them."
Based on an anonymous tip in 1999, EPA's New England office investigated the Tuckahoe Turf Farm and learned that the farm, which produces sod for residential and commercial use, had dredged and filled wetlands on two separate lots. The Tuckahoe Land Investment Co., a related enterprise, was formed to purchase and hold land.
Tuckahoe Turf bought the land in 1985 and has used portions of it to produce sod and other crops since 1986. Tuckahoe cleared a site next to the Salmon Falls River and installed a drainage system in 1998 and 1999. It stopped work at that site in 1999 after EPA began its investigation. EPA concluded nearly 40 acres of wetlands were impacted at that site and in August 2001 ordered Tuckahoe to take steps to restore this area.
Violations also affected about 15.05 acres at a nearby site bounded by Keay Brook to the north, Lake Hatfield to the east and the Little River, a tributary of the Salmon Falls River, to the south. According to EPA's complaint, Tuckahoe cleared this area and installed a drainage system in 1986 and discharged materials here until 1998. About 1410 feet of streams connecting the wetlands to the Little River were altered on the site, which has been farmed for sod, potatoes and beans.
In the recent agreement, Tuckahoe, which has been cooperative throughout the investigation and negotiations, agreed to completely restore both sites. The drainage system has already been disconnected at the first site and stumps and sticks have removed. Ground water and vegetation will be monitored to make sure the wetland area returns to its original condition.
At the second site, Tuckahoe will disable part of the drainage system, restore the streams, re-grade the ground surface, replant and monitor the site for five years.
The easements on two lots include one parcel with 28 acres of upland between Hubbard Road and the Salmon Falls River and about 40 acres of wetlands. The other includes 33 acres of upland and seven acres of wetland between Keay Brook and the Salmon Falls River. Together the two lots will protect about one mile of frontage along the Salmon Falls River.
The public is invited to comment on this agreement for 30 days after it is filed in the Federal Register. The deadline for public comments is Aug. 16. The consent decree is not final until after the comments are reviewed. Comments should be sent to the Assistant Attorney General, Environment and Natural Resources Division, Department of Justice, Attention: Joshua M. Levin, PO Box 23986, Washington, DC 20026-3986. Comments should refer to the matter of United States v. Tuckahoe Turf Farms, Inc., DJ Reference No. 90-5-1- 1-16745.
The proposed consent decree may be examined at the Clerk's Office, United States District Court for the District of Maine, 156 Federal Street, Portland, Maine 04101. It is also available on the Web at http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/enrd-home.html.