Chatham Property Owner Settles Allegations of Damage to Coastal Wetlands for Nearly $180,000
Allegedly dug up salt marsh on and near his Stage Harbor property
BOSTON — A Chatham property owner will pay close to $180,000 to settle allegations that he destroyed protected coastal wetlands on the shore of Stage Harbor in Chatham by allegedly driving a 9,000 pound, track-driven loader down a narrow foot path to the beach at low tide, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.
The complaint, filed today in Suffolk Superior Court with the consent judgment, alleges that David C. Rogers used the track loader to dig up at least 2,000 square feet of salt marsh on the shore and damaged coastal resources, including some areas on three adjacent lots of property owned by others. Rogers owns a 2.47-acre coastal property on Sears Point Road in Chatham and was granted permits from the Chatham Conservation Commission to demolish a large residential home and construct a new residential home in its place along with a boathouse and swimming pool on his property.
“Our shared coastal areas provide important environmental resources and must be safeguarded,” AG Healey said. “Our office will continue to work to enforce environmental laws and protect valuable coastal wetlands.”
“The property owner had received three separate approvals for work on this property and knew the requirements needed to protect the natural resources there,” said Commissioner Martin Suuberg of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). “Despite that knowledge, he still used equipment that badly damaged the salt marsh, tidal flats and shellfish that inhabited the area.”
“The Town is very pleased that the matter has been settled and looks forward to the restoration of the coastal environment,” Chatham Town Manager Jill Goldsmith said.
The AG’s Office alleges in the complaint that Rogers abandoned the track loader when it became partially submerged in the mud and silt of the tidal flats, leaving a small sheen on the water. The Chatham Shellfish Constable closed off the area to shellfishing for a month, although testing ultimately showed no contamination.
The consent judgment requires that Rogers pay a $140,000 civil penalty for allegedly violating the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act, the Public Waterfront Act, and the Clean Waters Act. It also requires Rogers to implement a coastal wetland restoration and monitoring plan approved by the MassDEP.
Rogers will spend up to $220,000 to restore the salt marsh, dune and coastal bank areas he damaged, according to the consent judgment. Salt marshes are important and sensitive ecological areas which protect against storm damage and provide habitats for shellfish and other marine life.
Since the alleged violations were discovered, Rogers has cooperated with MassDEP and the Chatham Department of Natural Resources toward developing a plan to assure that all damaged coastal wetlands are properly restored. If he completes all of the restoration work required by the consent judgment to MassDEP’s satisfaction, the state will waive $50,000 of the $140,000 penalty.
As part of the settlement, Rogers will also fund a $39,000 coastal wetlands enhancement project in Chatham, to be identified and implemented by the Town.
The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Matthew Ireland of AG Healey’s Environmental Protection Division, with assistance from MassDEP Senior Regional Counsel Shaun Walsh. Technical, scientific and investigative assistance was provided by Daniel Gilmore and Elizabeth Kouloheras of MassDEP’s Southeast Regional Office, working cooperatively with the Chatham Department of Natural Resources, including Director Robert Duncanson, Conservation Agent Kristin Andres, and Shellfish Constable Renee Gagne.