Custerman fined for blocking California Creek

Published on Thu, Jun 8, 2006 by Jack Kintner

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Custer man fined for blocking California Creek

By Jack Kintner

The Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) has fined Custer property owner Paul Sanchez $20,000 for re-routing and filling in portions of a tributary to California Creek without a permit on his land at 8450 Portal Way.

A stream on Sanchez’s eight acre property crosses under Portal Way and empties into California Creek, which is habitat for cutthroat trout and Coho salmon, an endangered species. Mud that Sanchez allegedly discharged into his stream could harm the fish by destroying their habitat, according Richard Grout, field manager for the DOE’s Bellingham office.

Sanchez, who also owns five acres in Kendall, applied for a county short plat last fall with Whatcom County Planning and Development Services that required him to provide a wetland assessment of the site before issuing permits to begin work.

Instead, Sanchez began working on his land without permits. The county issued a stop work order on February 13, but Sanchez ignored it and continued working.

According to Shannon Sullivan of the DOE, inspectors from her agency as well as other state and federal agencies, “determined that land clearing and filling violations as well as discharges of muddy water to the stream had occurred.”

Sullivan said that her agency and others have provided written explanations to Sanchez about the permits he needs but he has not applied for them and refuses to allow inspectors on his property.

Grout said he and other local, state and federal agencies “have met repeatedly with Mr. Sanchez and his attorney to explain what he needs to do to comply with the law, but Mr. Sanchez has failed to respond.”
Sanchez, who could not be reached for comment, has until the end of the month to appeal the ruling to the DOE or to state pollution control hearings board.