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ELLSWORTH - Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen today announced that his office has resolved a civil environmental prosecution it brought against Holst Excavating, Inc., a Prescott, Wisconsin company, and its owners and operators, William Holst and Nancy Beeler. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) had asked the Wisconsin Department of Justice to prosecute them for violating state stormwater permitting and erosion control laws in the course of their construction of a real estate development project known as the "Diamond Bluff Addition," located in the Town of Diamond Bluff, in Pierce County, about 40 miles south of the Twin Cities. The full project contemplates the development of approximately twenty-eight single-family home sites on a thirty-nine acre parcel of land near the Mississippi River.
Under state law, Van Hollen said, owners of construction sites where an acre or more of land will be disturbed must apply to the DNR and obtain coverage under a water pollution control permit regulating storm water runoff before they may begin construction. Under other state laws, before DNR can grant such a stormwater permit, it must consider whether a proposed project will affect any "historic properties," including archaeological sites, and if so DNR may deny or impose conditions on the permit to minimize any adverse effects on the historic property. Here, after Holst applied for stormwater permit coverage in early 2006, the DNR reviewed the available archaeological and historical information and found indications that a number of archaeological sites were present on the property. For that reason the DNR repeatedly asked Holst to contact the Wisconsin Historical Society for more detailed information about how he might be able to proceed with the project before DNR could decide whether to issue Holst a stormwater permit.
In the fall of 2007, without first advising the DNR, without conducting an archaeological investigation or getting clearance from the Wisconsin Historical Society, and without obtaining stormwater permit coverage, the defendants proceeded to construct roadways and drainage ditches for the first of the three planned phases of development for Diamond Ridge. After DNR's discovery of these unpermitted construction activities, William Holst told the DNR that he got tired of waiting for the various government approvals and went ahead without them. Although available archeological information indicates the presence of burial mounds in the vicinity, a subsequent investigation indicated that none were damaged during this first unlawful phase of construction.
The violations charged in the civil case were that:
"The Wisconsin Department of Justice will continue to work with DNR to ensure that water quality and archaeological site protection laws are followed," said Van Hollen. He added that the defendants, in this settlement agreement, have committed to returning the construction project to compliance with erosion control laws by completion of the permit process for the first phase of the development, to conduct all necessary archaeological investigations and obtain all required water pollution control permits before engaging in the construction of subsequent phases of the real estate project. The defendants have also agreed to pay the State of Wisconsin attorney fees, penalties, surcharges and costs totaling $25,000.
Assistant Attorney General Thomas L. Dosch represented the State.