FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, December 15, 2005
* * * * CORRECTED * * * *
NC DOT EMPLOYEES PLEAD GUILTY TO
CLEAN WATER ACT & RIVERS AND HARBORS ACT VIOLATIONS
RALEIGH - United States Attorney Frank D. Whitney announced that today, BILLY R. MOORE, 60, of Grantsboro, North Carolina, entered a guilty plea to charges in federal court before United States District Court Judge Terrence W. Boyle. Pursuant to his written plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, MOORE pled guilty to a felony violation of the Clean Water Act and a violation of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899.
Previously, on November 21, 2005, HERBERT F. O’NEAL, 51, of Aurora, NC, and DOUGLAS A. BATEMAN, 55, Aydlett, NC, entered guilty pleas to charges in federal court in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, before United States District Court Judge Terrence W. Boyle. Each pled guilty pursuant to written plea agreements to a misdemeanor violation of the Clean Water Act and a violation of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899.
According to the criminal information and information in the public record, MOORE did knowingly order employees of the dredge crews, aboard the marine vessel Buxton, Jr., marine vessel Dare, and marine vessel LCU Hatteras, including O’NEAL and BATEMAN, to “prop wash” a channel in Currituck Sound, near Corolla, North Carolina, and did so knowing that a permit had not been issued by the United States Army Corps of Engineers (“ACOE”) - Wilmington District. At one point, the crews positioned two of the vessels nose-to-nose and prop washed. As a result of the unauthorized conduct, the defendants created a channel that was approximately 730 feet long, 4-5 feet deep, and 120 feet across at the widest point. The unauthorized conduct created a berm and navigational problems.
After being confronted by the ACOE for the illegal conduct, MOORE lied, claiming the channel was created by accident. MOORE also directed another person to create a false statement to the ACOE regarding the events. MOORE subsequently caused the false statement to be delivered to the ACOE.
At the time of the offense conduct, all three men were employees of the North Carolina Department of Transportation - Ferry Division. MOORE was employed by the Ferry Division of the North Carolina Department of Transportation (“NC DOT”) as the Dredge and Field Maintenance Superintendent. In that capacity, MOORE was vested with the authority to make all of the day-to-day decisions for dredge and maintenance projects to which he was assigned, and responsible for the NC DOT’s compliance with permits issued under the Rivers and Harbor Act of 1899 and the Clean Water Act. MOORE was also the project manager for the establishment of ferry service from the Currituck mainland to Corolla, North Carolina, and therefore, maintained responsibility for the construction of a landing site at Heritage Park in Corolla. The landing site had to allow for a ferry to be docked and the entry and exit of passengers according to NC DOT policy.
O’NEAL and BATEMAN were members of the NC DOT - Ferry Division Dredge and Maintenance crews. The NC DOT maintains two Ferry Division Dredge and Maintenance crews, both consisting of a captain, marine operators, and deck handlers. The crews operated numerous working vessels, including the one hundred and eight foot (108') long Landing Craft Unit ("LCU") Hatteras, the forty-five foot (45') long marine vessel Buxton, Jr., and the thirty-four foot (34') long marine vessel Dare. O’NEAL, a Coast Guard licensed boat operator, was the Captain of the LCU Hatteras. BATEMAN, a member of the crew for over eight and a half years, maintained a masters licence from the Coast Guard, and worked aboard the marine vessel Dare during the illegal dredging activity.
From at least October 2003 to the offense date, NC DOT was working to establish ferry service between Currituck and Corolla, and was interested, along with others entities, in establishing a landing site within an area known as the Heritage Park inlet, which is adjacent to the Whalehead Club and near the Corolla lighthouse. In 1996 and 2000, Currituck County Officials applied for and were denied permits to dredge a channel to accommodate ferry service in this same area. In both of these prior application processes, four federal agencies publically opposed dredging in the Heritage Park inlet, citing, among other reasons, the adverse impact on fish, wildlife, and aquatic resources of national importance.
The ACOE ordered NC DOT to perform mitigation of the site. Mitigation was completed on October 12, 2004.
"The EPA is very pleased that this, as well as other violations of the Clean Water Act, will be vigorously pursued by the U.S. Attorney's Office and the North Carolina Environmental Crimes Workgroup," said EPA CID Special Agent in Charge Fred Burnside.
United States Attorney Frank Whitney stated, “areas such as the one impacted by this unlawful conduct are extremely important to the citizens of North Carolina in terms of water quality improvement and the protection of aquatic wildlife habitats. Public officials who are entrusted with our state’s resources cannot ignore environmental laws designed to protect those same resources, whether motivated by private or other interests.”
Investigation of the case was conducted by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, and the United States Coast Guard Investigative Service with the invaluable assistance of the United States Army Corps of Engineers - Wilmington District. AUSA Banumathi Rangarajan prosecuted the case for the United States.
The investigation into this matter continues.
News releases are available on the U. S. Attorney’s web page at www.usdoj.gov/usao/nce within 48 hours of release.