Property owner settles wetlands damage allegations
BOSTON (Legal Newsline) - Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced on Wednesday that she has reached a $38,000 settlement with a coastal property owner over charges that he violated state laws designed to protect natural resources.
Carlos A. Pereira, who owns both a coastal property and an island in Fairhaven, has agreed to restore wetlands to the mainland and island parcels that were allegedly damaged by clear cutting and wall construction in violation of the Wetlands Protections Act.
The lawsuit alleged that Pereira was in violation of the Wetlands Protection Act in 2005 and 2006 on the mainland portion of his property after a stone wall was built and a salt marsh was altered. Pereira was also allegedly in violation of the act by clear cutting vegetation on the island and constructing stone walls on the island's banks without the required approval.
Additionally, the lawsuit against Pereira alleges that he enlarged an existing jetty on the property without MassDEP's approval. The jetty expansion, the lawsuit alleges, violated the Public Waterfront Act because it was unlicensed and constituted a public nuisance.
Pereira claims that the work was done by his tenant at the property and he didn't know it was happening.
"Wetlands are vital to the protection of marine fisheries and the prevention of water pollution. Healthy, functioning coastal wetlands help sustain, preserve, and protect natural resources such as marine fisheries that are critical to the economies of Massachusetts' coastal communities," Coakley said. "We hope that this case will make coastal property owners think twice before they alter wetlands without required authorizations, and encourage landlords to institute measures to ensure their tenants' compliance with the Wetlands Protection Act."
If Pereira complies with the terms of the consent judgment, $18,000 of his $38,000 civil penalty will be waived. The settlement also calls for Pereira to make a $2,000 contribution to the non-profit Coalition for Buzzards Bay, which is dedicated to the protection of the Buzzards Bay watershed.
"Property owners and their tenants cannot ignore long-standing environmental standards meant to protect and preserve our precious coastal resources and preserve the public's rights of access to the water," MassDEP Commissioner Laurie Burt said.