Pennsylvania Landowner Fined $137,800 For Wetlands Violations

Unpermitted pond construction destroyed two acres of wetlands and impacted a trout-stocked stream.

Published on: Nov 15, 2012

Last week, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued an announcement – twice, as if once wasn't enough of a warning to landowners: Don't mess with possible wetland without a permit. And, stay clear of any tributary feeding a stream stocked with trout.

That wasn't the announcement. But it was the between-the-lines message of DEP's announcement that Beaver County landowner Francois Bitz of Baden will pay $137,000 in civil penalties for violating the Pennsylvania Clean Streams Law and the Dam Safety and Encroachments Act. He'll also pay cost-recovery and oversight costs to DEP and the Allegheny County Conservation District.

Bitz's recreational pond will wind up as a very expensive project. From 2009 to 2010, according to DEP, he excavated about two acres of wetlands for the pond without necessary permits. DEP charges that he also impacted about 1,100 feet of trout-stocked stream.

GET A PERMIT! On-farm dirt-moving projects such as this – without proper permitting – invites intervention by the long arm environmental law.
GET A PERMIT! On-farm dirt-moving projects such as this – without proper permitting – invites intervention by the long arm environmental law.

"Our regulations exist to protect the quality and vitality of our streams and wetlands," DEP Southwest Regional Director Susan Malone said. "The department's permitting process allows for responsible development. But the regulations must be respected and enforced."

In July 2010, DEP inspections of the Marshall Township property revealed he had excavated portions of a stream channel of an unnamed tributary to Big Sewickley Creek. The latter is classified as a trout-stocked fishery.

DEP says he also disturbed significant portions of earth in the surrounding wetlands without developing or implementing an erosion and sediment control plan. Such plans outline how construction activity are to prevent sediment runoff to pollute streams and wetlands.

Now, Bitz must submit a revised permit application for remediation and restoration of the impacted stream and wetlands. Restoration must begin within two months and be completed within six months of the permit being issued.