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Release Date: 11/13/1996
Contact Information: Elizabeth Higgins 617-918-1051

The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Justice, the Maine Department of Transportation, three DOT contractors, the Conservation Law Foundation, and the Sierra Club today signed a consent decree settling the Sears Island wetland enforcement case.

Under the decree, Maine DOT has agreed to put $800,000 toward wetland restoration and land preservation projects on Sears Island and on the mainland near Penobscot Bay. The settlement resolves the federal government's enforcement case against Maine DOT and its contractors for filling 10.1 acres of wetlands on Sears Island in 1985.

"There will be wetlands restoration, more conservation land, and important progress in Atlantic Salmon restoration as a result of this settlement," said John P. DeVillars, Regional Administrator of EPA.

"The settlement is a fair, reasonable, and appropriate resolution of this case--one that will result in real benefits to the environment and the people of the State of Maine," DeVillars added.

"We are pleased that this matter was resolved through negotiations that included Maine citizens concerned about their environment," said Lois Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Environment and Natural Resources Division at the Department of Justice. "This settlement will result in significant environmental benefits, and underscores this Administration's commitment to preserving the environment for all," she added.

Under the terms of the consent decree, Maine DOT will:

    • remove the fill from, and restore, approximately 3.2 acres of freshwater wetlands on Sears Island at the site of DOT's proposed cargo port;
    • create at least one vernal pool in the restored area;
    • restore .75 acre of wetlands at the south/central end of Sears Island which were degraded through removal of topsoil by unknown persons;
    • acquire and restore approximately 17 acres of degraded pastureland, resulting in the land reverting to wetland, along the Dyer River, a tributary to the Sheepscot River which is habitat for the Atlantic Salmon, a species proposed to be listed as threatened by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service;
    • invest at least $100,000 toward purchasing valuable wetlands along the Ducktrap River, critical habitat for the Atlantic Salmon.
Also under the decree, three contractor defendants who did design and construction work on the port project for DOT will pay a $10,000 cash penalty. They are T.Y. Lin International, DOT's design and engineering contractor; and Bridgecorp and Robert Wardwell & Sons, two of DOT's construction contractors.

Although the consent decree does not prevent DOT from renewing its plans for a port on Sears Island, DOT will be required to apply for a new permit and meet all environmental standards under the Clean Water Act should it decide to pursue the project.

The consent decree will be lodged today with the U. S. District Court in Bangor.