FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday - October 5, 2004
VIRGINIA DARE MEMORIAL BRIDGE, MANTEO, N. C.,
PROJECT MANAGER PLEADS GUILTY TO ENVIRONMENTAL VIOLATIONS
Raleigh - United States Attorney Frank D. Whitney announced that MICHAEL EUGENE HILLYER pled guilty in federal court in Raleigh on Tuesday, October 5, 2004, to a conspiracy to violate the Clean Water Act and the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, and a substantive violation of the Rivers and Harbors Act, pursuant to a plea agreement with the U. S. Attorney's Office.
HILLYER could receive a statutory maximum sentence of four years imprisonment, a fine of $500,000.00, and a supervised release term of one year. The actual sentence will be determined in accordance with the United States Sentencing Guidelines and without parole. Chief U. S. District Judge Terrence W. Boyle has not scheduled a sentencing date.
The Indictment, which was returned by a federal grand jury in Wilmington on May 26, 2004, alleged that HILLYER conspired with other individuals to discharge pollutants from a point source into, and to excavate, fill, and alter the course of, the Croatan Sound, a navigable water of the U. S., without a permit having been issued by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers.
According to the Indictment and information in the public record, HILLYER, 65, of Mt. Pleasant, S. C., was a Project Manager for Balfour Beatty Construction, Inc., an international construction company hired by the North Carolina Department of Transportation to construct a bridge from Manns Harbor to Manteo, N. C. HILLYER and his co-conspirators sought to avoid the environmental permit requirements in connection with the removal of certain construction equipment. Instead, the conspirators used the propellers of a tug boat to "prop wash" the Croatan Sound bottom. The conspirators also worked at night to avoid detection by inspectors.
As a result of the unauthorized conduct, the conspirators created a trench in Manns Harbor that measured approximately 600 feet in length, 60 feet in width, and 10 feet in depth. It is estimated that the conduct impacted over 8.2 acres of shallow water habitat. The North Carolina Department of Transportation has performed mitigation work at the site.
Earlier this year, Balfour Beatty Construction, Inc., and two lower level employees pled guilty to Criminal Informations that charged each of them with a violation of the Rivers and Harbors Act, and a negligent violation of the Clean Water Act.
Special Agent in Charge Fred Burnside, of the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Criminal Investigation Division (CID), said, "This case sends a message to those in industry who are in positions of leadership. Business leaders, managers, and corporate executives who choose to commit environmental crimes will be investigated and held accountable. The guilty pleas in this investigation are the direct result of the strong working relationship the CID enjoys with the N. C. State Bureau of Investigation and the Army Corps of Engineers."
The Virginia Dare Memorial Bridge is the state's longest bridge spanning 5.2 miles over designated high quality waters. U. S. Attorney Whitney stated, "There must be strict adherence to the environmental regulations when large-scale public projects are constructed in our state's natural resources. The agreement reached in this case continues this office's commitment to prosecuting environmental crimes."
Investigation of the case was conducted by the Criminal Investigation Division of the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency; the N. C. State Bureau of Investigation; and the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. Assistant U. S. Attorney Banumathi Rangarajan is prosecuting the case for the United States.
News releases are available on the U.S. Attorney's web page at www.usdoj.gov/usao/nce within 48 hours of release.