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Milwaukee County Man Ordered to Pay Forfeitures and to Remove Sunken Barge From The Menomonee River


MILWAUKEE - Franklin businessman Basil E. Ryan, Jr., has been ordered to pay $37,691.25 for violating Wisconsin's water regulation laws since a barge in his possession and control sank in the Menomonee River in July 2006.  In addition, Ryan must pay to remove the barge from the river.


The State filed a complaint at the request of the Department of Natural Resources, charging Ryan with maintaining an obstruction in the Menomonee River since the barge sank in July 2006.  According to the complaint and evidence presented during prosecution of the case, the barge had been moored to property that Ryan had owned and used for his car towing business on 260 North 12th Street in Milwaukee.  Ryan had been ordered to remove the barge in July 2005 in a separate legal proceeding, but he had not complied with that order.  The barge was in significant disrepair, and it sank on July 13, 2006.  The Department of Natural Resources asked Ryan to remove the barge, and obtained bids for the barge's removal for Ryan's consideration, but Ryan refused to remove the barge. 


The State moved for summary judgment as to Ryan's liability, and the Court found Ryan personally liable for maintaining an obstruction in the Menomonee River contrary to state law.  The Court held a trial to determine forfeitures and injunctive relief on October 5-7, 2009.  At the conclusion of the trial, Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Thomas R. Cooper ruled that Ryan must pay $37,691.25 in forfeitures and statutory assessments.  Judge Cooper found that the barge is a hazard to navigation in the river, and ordered that Ryan must set aside an additional $100,000 in an escrow account to pay to remove the barge, and ordered that bids be obtained for removing the barge promptly.


"The Court recognized how important it is to keep Wisconsin's rivers safe for commercial and recreational navigation, and to cooperate with government efforts to clear hazards from Wisconsin waterways," said Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen. "The Wisconsin Department of Justice will continue to work with the DNR to protect the interests of Wisconsin's citizens in our rivers and streams through compliance with the law."


Assistant Attorney General JoAnne F. Kloppenburg prosecuted the case.