Court orders Wisc. man to remove sunken barge

Nick Rees Nov. 3, 2009, 4:18pm

Van Hollen

MILWAUKEE (Legal Newsline) - A Franklin, Wisc., businessman has been ordered to pay more than $37,000 for violating Wisconsin's water regulation laws and pay to remove a barge in his possession that sank in the Menomonee River in July 2006.

The barge, in Basil E. Ryan, Jr.'s possession and control, sank in July 2006. The Department of Natural Resources has charged Ryan with maintaining an obstruction in the Menomonee River since the barge sank. The DNR asked Ryan to remove the barge and obtained bids for the barge's removal for Ryan's consideration. Ryan refused to remove the barge.

Ryan had previously been ordered to remove the barge in July 2005 in a separate legal proceeding but failed to comply with that order.

The State, following a move for summary judgment as to Ryan's liability, and the court found Ryan personally liable for maintaining an obstruction in the Menomonee River.

A trial was held in October to determine forfeitures and injunctive relief against Ryan. Ryan was ordered to pay $37,691.25 in forfeitures and statutory assessments at the conclusion of the trial. Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Thomas R. Cooper also ruled that the barge poses a hazard to navigation on the river and ordered an additional $100,000 be set aside in an escrow account to pay for removal of the barge. Cooper ordered that bids be obtained promptly for removing the barge.

"The Court recognized how important it is to keep Wisconsin's rivers safe for commercial and recreational navigation, and to cooperate with government efforts to clear hazards from Wisconsin waterways," state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said.

"The Wisconsin Department of Justice will continue to work with the DNR to protect the interests of Wisconsin's citizens in our rivers and streams through compliance with the law."

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