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Langlade County Property Owner Ordered to Remove Illegal Wetland Fill and Pay $28,000 in Penalties

 

ANTIGO – Langlade County resident James Draeger has been ordered to remove a road through wetlands on property in the Town of Peck, and to pay $28,000 in forfeitures, assessments, fees and costs for building the road without a water quality certification in violation of state wetland protection laws.

 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Wisconsin DNR jointly regulate activities in certain wetlands under a general federal permit. That permit requires that property owners notify DNR of proposed activities in the wetlands and obtain from DNR certification that the activities comply with state water quality standards.

 

In this case, prosecuted at the request of the Department of Natural Resources, Draeger had a road constructed through the wetland in November 2005. Draeger had not notified DNR of the wetland project, and he never obtained from DNR a certification that the project complied with state water quality standards. DNR staff investigated the project upon receiving a complaint about the road, and determined that the road did not meet state water quality standards. DNR staff also determined that the road did not qualify for a federal silvicultural exemption from permitting requirements.

 

DNR staff determined that Draeger's unpermitted project segmented a valuable wetland complex, degraded and threatened water quality, fish and wildlife habitat, and threatened the water quality of the Clearwater Creek and the West Branch of the Eau Claire River into which the wetland system drains. DNR staff concluded that only removal of the road will preserve and protect the natural resources that the road had adversely affected.

 

Langlade County Judge Fred W. Kawalski denied the State's motion for summary judgment in January 2010, finding that whether the road qualified for the federal silvicultural exemption was disputed by the parties. Judge Kawalski scheduled a trial for July 19, 2010. Before the trial began, the parties reached an agreement calling for removal of the road and for payment of penalties totaling $28,000. Judge Kawalski signed the order for judgment on August 9, 2010.

 

The State had settled with the contractor that built the road for Draeger, Monte Shane Krueger and Krueger & Stienfest, Inc., for $4,000 in March 2010.

"The Wisconsin Department of Justice will continue to work with the DNR to ensure that Wisconsin's wetlands are protected through compliance with the law," said Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen.

 

Assistant Attorney General JoAnne F. Kloppenburg prosecuted the case for the State.