Court Approves U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Settlement of Clean Water Act Violations by The Bear’s Club Founding Partners, Ltd
Yesterday, U.S. District Judge William P. Dimitrouleas of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida approved a consent decree that resolves alleged violations of the Clean Water Act by The Bear’s Club Founding Partners Ltd., several of its officers and related entities. The complaint was brought in 2015 by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, on behalf of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), Jacksonville District.
The Clean Water Act requires any person who plans to fill federally protected wetlands to receive a permit from the Corps. A permit issued to The Bear’s Club Founding Partners Ltd., in 1999 authorized it to fill certain wetlands on its property in Jupiter, Florida, for the purpose of building a residential golf community. As a condition of the permit, the Bear’s Club was required to preserve certain wetlands on its property in their natural state. The complaint alleged that the Bear’s Club violated the conditions of its permit by filling nearly an acre of wetlands which were required to remain intact. The Bear’s Club’s apparent purpose for filling the wetlands was to make its golf course more easily playable by weaker golfers.
Under the consent decree, the defendants are required to pay a civil penalty of $400,000. In addition, to offset the environmental impact of their activity, The Bear’s Club had previously contributed additional sums toward the enhancement of seven acres of wetlands in the Grassy Waters Preserve in West Palm Beach.
“When wetlands are filled in violation of the Clean Water Act, the loss is felt not only today, but by all generations to come,” said U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer for the Southern District of Florida. “The substantial penalty obtained in this case sends a message to anyone who fails to abide by our nation’s environmental laws that they will be held accountable for their non-compliance.”
Compliance and enforcement is an important component of the Corps’ Regulatory program. The Corps’ Jacksonville district has an ongoing compliance inspection program throughout Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Corps’ surveillance and monitoring activities are often aided by state and federal agencies, groups and individuals, who report suspected violations. To address violations, the Corps is authorized to prescribe corrective action, impose fines and/or prescribe removal of the offending fill, work or structure.
“The penalty in this case furthers the Army's mission to administer and enforce section 404 of the Clean Water Act by encouraging compliance with permits and the regulatory process,” said Colonel Jason A. Kirk, commander for the Jacksonville district.
For more information on Jacksonville district and the Corps’ Regulatory program, visit: www.saj.usace.army.mil/.
This case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Carlos Raurell for the Southern District of Florida and Andrew J. Doyle of the Environmental Defense Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.