A Hood Canal waterfront property owner pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to the federal felony offense of making a false statement to a federal official in connection with his unlawful construction of a beachfront bulkhead, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. JON KOLOSKI, 74, of Potlach in Mason County, constructed the bulkhead in September 2011, without the appropriate permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. KOLOSKI had been told by both Mason County officials and the Corps that he needed the federal permit to construct the bulkhead. After he failed to complete the permit process, and after the new bulkhead had been installed, KOLOSKI falsely told the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers via email that he no longer needed the permit as he was not going to replace the previously existing bulkhead. A subsequent inspection by the Corps of Engineers revealed the bulkhead had already been constructed and was in violation of federal and state rules. KOLOSKI is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Benjamin H. Settle on October 5, 2015.
“Not only did this defendant knowingly proceed without a permit, he lied to federal officials in an effort to hide his wrongdoing,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. “These lies made it harder to protect the environment that we so cherish here in the Pacific Northwest and violated the public trust.”
According to the plea agreement, KOLOSKI admits that in the late 1990s he started exploring the replacement of the existing bulkhead at his beachfront property. He was told by Mason County authorities that any new bulkhead had to remain on the footprint of the existing bulkhead, and could not extend further than 6 feet past the ordinary high water mark. KOLOSKI was also informed that any work that extended beyond the ordinary high water mark had to be approved and permitted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In early 2010, Mason County issued permits for a new bulkhead 6 feet past the ordinary high water mark. In June 2010, an official with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers informed KOLOSKI that he needed to apply for a permit. In paperwork submitted to the Corps, KOLOSKI said the bulkhead would be ten feet past the ordinary high water mark. The Corps asked for more information on the project, but KOLOSKI did not respond and in September 2010 the permit process was cancelled.
In October 2010, KOLOSKI revived the process by submitting some of the required information and he was informed of the time frame for permit approval. Still without a permit, in mid-2011 KOLOSKI went forward and hired a contractor. In September 2011 KOLOSKI had the bulkhead installed ten feet past the ordinary high water mark. The Corps of Engineers was unaware of the construction and sent KOLOSKI information on specific requirements for a permit in early 2012. KOLOSKI responded in April 2012 that due to financial considerations he no longer planned to build the new bulkhead and asked that his application for a permit be withdrawn. KOLOSKI sent the email some six months after having the new bulkhead constructed. In May 2012, a Corps of Engineers inspector visited the KOLOSKI property and discovered the new bulkhead had been constructed without a permit and in violation of rules regarding the distance seaward from the ordinary high water mark.
“The defendant made false statements designed to mislead government authorities,” said Lance Ehrig, Acting Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in the State of Washington. “As a principal founder of an environmental engineering firm and as a geologist, Mr. Koloski was well aware of the permit requirements for shorelines in and around the Puget Sound region. Our government functions properly only when individuals and corporate entities submit honest and truthful information while requesting government oversight of projects that could affect the environment. Today’s guilty plea demonstrates that violators who deliberately waste government resources – and taxpayers’ money – will be prosecuted.”
In addition to the criminal charge, KOLOSKI also settled civil violations of the federal Clean Water Act.
“Mr. Koloski’s unpermitted work resulted in the loss of endangered salmon habitat,” said David Allnutt, Director of the Office of Ecosystems, Tribal and Public Affairs in the EPA Seattle office. “We work closely with our local and state partners and spend millions of dollars on Puget Sound protection and recovery. It is imperative that developers who work on sensitive shoreline habitats have permits that allow for development to proceed in a way that protects the environment.”
KOLOSKI has agreed to pay $60,000 in civil penalties and $60,500 to the Hood Canal Coordinating Council for mitigation of salmon habitat to offset environmental impacts associated with construction of the bulkhead. In addition, the civil settlement requires habitat restoration at the site of the bulkhead to remedy habitat loss.
The EPA worked with a team of agencies which included Mason County, Washington Department of Ecology, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to resolve this case.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney James Oesterle.