QUILCENE — The state Department of Ecology has found violations in the Water Pollution Control Act on property owned by Fort Discovery Inc.
Documents obtained last week shed light on Ecology’s report, which resulted from a March visit to the Cedar Hills Recreational Facility at Tarboo Lake.
Rich Mraz, Ecology shoreline technical and regulatory lead, said cleaning and grading had occurred in wetlands that were not identified in a Westech wetland delineation report dated July 2018. Mraz was accompanied by a team from Jefferson County that performed testing and made additional observations at the two 20-acre parcels.
Some of the clearing was in wetland buffers regulated by Jefferson County through its critical areas ordinance.
Mraz said Fort Discovery Inc. and its president, Joe D’Amico, were not aware of those areas because they had not been specifically identified.
Mraz said that there were several wetland violations considered to be “relatively minor encroachments.”
Brienn Ellis, Ecology construction stormwater inspector, said she found the area was in active construction activity.
“They do not have a permit, and we filed a corrections order,” she said. “I am not sure what stage the project was in because they are at multiple stages of construction on the property.”
Mraz’s report documented a wetland area that had been impacted by recent fill and grading, and fill and cleared vegetation were pushed into the wetland.
An additional test pit was dug in a completely cleared and graded area, and it was found to meet wetland soil and hydrology parameters, according to the report.
Mraz determined the activity violated the Water Pollution Control Act, which states “filling in wetlands shall not be undertaken without first obtaining a permit from Ecology.”
To remediate the damaged areas and avoid any potential state enforcement actions associated with unpermitted wetlands alterations, Mraz said a wetlands restoration plan is required to be filed with Ecology for review and approval. An Agreed Order will outline the timeline, monitoring and reporting.
“Once the plan is approved, I will monitor it to make sure it’s back on track,” he said. “This is an enforceable order until there’s an acceptable outcome.”
Mraz said he’s confident the work will be done.
“Joe [D’Amico] expressed interest in doing that,” he said. “The county and the corps [Army Corps of Engineers] have to be accepting of this path.”
The Army Corps of Engineers has not conducted an on-site investigation. Calls on Tuesday to determine when the agency plans to be in the area were not returned.
Once that visit takes place, a follow-up meeting with Jefferson County, Ecology and the Corps will be scheduled, and a final review will be conducted to coordinate all the findings and action items.
The Tarboo Ridge Coalition (TRC) had been concerned about Fort Discovery making changes to the site without the proper permits and surveilled the site with a drone last year. In response, corporate attorney Greg Overstreet filed an anti-harassment order against Tarboo Ridge Coalition board member Teri Hein as well as a case against TRC for aerial trespass.
The case against Hein was dismissed in court. The aerial trespass case was withdrawn.
Commenting that D’Amico “historically has a habit of not obeying the rules,” Peter Newland, TRC board member said that D’Amico was “moving stuff without permission from his Fort Discovery property along a state highway, and he put in equipment at the Tarboo property.
“We decided to monitor it because the work required permits, and he didn’t have them,” he said.
Newland said the group started the drone flights to understand the scope of the activity and felt there were wetland violations.
“We believe it is completely inappropriate that a private, for-profit paramilitary installation can be sited there, and it is in non-compliance with Jefferson County,” he said.
According to Fort Discovery’s pre-application materials, the proposed facility would feature police and military unit training, helicopter landing pads, multiple gun ranges, and an RV campground and cabins to accommodate overnight stays.
TRC has filed a 26-page brief with the state Growth Management Hearings Board (GMHB), appealing Jefferson County’s recent changes to the development code that allows for unlimited sized, private, for-profit gun ranges and opening up 76 percent of land in the county for such facilities. A decision is expected July 17.
D’Amico responded to Ecology’s findings by expressing concern about activity not on his property.
“We are shocked at all the clear-cutting around Tarboo Lake and the impacts to the Tarboo watershed,” he said.
Newland said Pope Resources clear-cutting has leveled the area around Tarboo Lake, leaving a 50-foot buffer at the shoreline.
“Joe’s property can now be observed by hikers and horseback riders that are allowed to use Pope Resources property,” he said.
Jefferson County Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected].