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ME Town to Pay $75K in Fines for Seawall

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

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Since the construction of a seawall along Long Sands Beach, Maine, without a permit, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection has fined the town of York $75,000.

According to reports, because town officials allowed for the construction of the stepped seawall without proper documentation, the operation violated the Natural Resources Protection Act.

What Happened

The Long Sands Beach seawall was severly damaged by large coastal storms in October and November 2017, as well as March 2018.

After starting the construction of a new seawall sometime in the spring, the DEP reportedly inspected the structure in May and documented the work taking place. However, after determining that the stepped wall was a different design from the previous seawall, the DEP informed the town that they needed a permit and issued a notice of violation in June.

The DEP also noted that the new seawall was being constructed within a coastal sand dune.

“The applicant continued to build the steps on top of the existing seawall in the weeks after being notified that these changes to the seawall required prior approval from the Department,” the DEP wrote in the consent agreement.

According to the town, a different DEP employee verbally told the town that it didn’t need a permit. However, the employee had retired by the spring of 2018 without ever putting the agreement in writing.

Following the violation notice received in June, the town applied for an after-the-fact permit in August which was granted in September 2019. Yet, because work continued on the stepped wall after the application was submitted, but prior to the permit being approved, an assistant attorney general put a stop to the work in March 2019.

The Press Herald reports that an administration consent agreement with the department—which was unanimously approved by the Board of Selectmen—was used to reach a final solution. In the agreement, the DEP issued a fine of $75,000 to the town. The fine has since been slated to be paid by the Department of Public Works' operating budget.

Town Manager Steve Burns had proposed that conserving 113 acres of town-owned land to serve as an environmental pollution prevention project could mitigate the fines. However, the DEP rejected his proposal.

“I think the $75,000 is a slap in the face for the taxpayers of York,” said Selectman Michael Estes.

“The design we have is superior to anything that agency could remotely come up with. For a state agency to sue a town for $75,000 to set a standard—it’s extortion for us to get our permit.”

What’s Next

Under the permit’s terms, the town will follow a five-year beach monitoring plan to determine if the new seawall is causing erosion. The town is also required to replenish the beach should sand volumes decline more than 100 cubic yards from the baseline amount.

And as added in the consent agreeement, the town will also be installing an educational kiosk near the newly structured bathhouse in order to create a resource for the public on information about the roles of dunes and beach vegetation.

The overall project has been estimated to cost about $3 million, according to Burns.


Tagged categories: Construction; Environmental Protection; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Ongoing projects; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Seawall; Violations

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