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Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen announced today that the Wisconsin Department of Justice has obtained a judgment against Waushara County excavation contractor Jody Henke for violations of state environmental protection laws.
According to the complaint filed at the request of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Pine Ridge of Wautoma, LLC (Pine Ridge) hired contractor Jody Henke to grade the shoreline and excavate the bed of a glacial pothole lake on property owned by Mathew P. Brown, LLC. It is illegal both to remove material from a lakebed and to place material on a lakebed without first securing a DNR contract or legislative approval. It is also illegal to place dredged or fill material in wetlands without authorization from DNR. The complaint alleged that Henke had dug pits nearly 8 feet deep in the bed of the lake, and had placed dredged spoils on the lakebed and in wetlands near the lake, before DNR learned of the project and ordered work to stop.
Pine Ridge of Wautoma, LLC and Mathew P. Brown, LLC removed the fill from the wetland, repaired the lakebed, agreed to finish restoring the disturbed area and to monitor that area in order to ensure that invasive or non-native species do not become established, and agreed to pay penalties and assessments totaling $16,340 before the State's lawsuit was filed. Mr. Henke did not contest the State's suit, and the State sought default judgment against him.
The State provided the Court with evidence that both DNR and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers staff had met with Henke and had discussed wetland regulations with him. He knew or should have known that digging in the pond area at the Pine Ridge resort would require a permit or permits, but he started excavating without seeking a permit. Waushara County Circuit Court Judge Guy D. Dutcher entered default judgment against Henke on June 25, 2009, and ordered him to pay a total judgment of $14,093.
"The law is clear. Those wishing to place fill in wetlands or dredge lakes must first seek and obtain a permit from the DNR," Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said. "This process ensures the state's waters are protected, for the benefit of Wisconsin citizens and the environment. Un-permitted activities can seriously harm aquatic life and the quality of our waterways and wetlands. The Department of Justice will continue to work with the DNR to ensure compliance with the law."
Assistant Attorney General Diane Milligan represented the State.