MN real estate company skirts wetlands law, agrees to pay 400k in violations

Various parties involved in a real estate transaction, like real estate developers, often have many hurdles to overcome when building upon a piece of land. Permits, zoning issues, easements and building permits are all part of numerous rules and regulations that must be followed. For those dealing with specific types of land, like wetlands, the hurdles can be even more complex and difficult.

A case in point involves a Wayzata company that is facing a huge fine due to federal permit violations in connection with the development of wetlands located near Sauk Rapids, Minnesota.

Law involving wetlands

Under both federal law, such as the Clean Water Act, as well as state law, individuals who wish to raze wetlands to further a real estate project must purchase what's known as "credits" in restored wetlands in another location.

Wetlands are areas of land where a lot of water is present for most of the year. These areas harbor specific and protected plant and animal habitats living in and on the soil. They also promote the development of wetland hydric soil.

Case in point

A few years ago, DMH Partners North, had plans to develop a 34-acre parcel of land in Sauk Rapids, Minnesota, which included over 10 acres of wetlands.

In 2008, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued the Wayzata company a permit that authorized the company to disrupt about 7 acres of the wetlands on the condition, among many, that the company buy off-site wetland credits to mitigate the harm. (Specifically, the permit allowed the company to discharge "fill material" on to the wetlands.)

The Corps conducted an inspection in June 2009 and found that the wetlands were filled but the condition mandating the company to buy off-site wetland credits was not fulfilled. Thereafter, the Corps ordered DMH to meet the conditions. However, the company reportedly refused the request.

DMH assents to consent decree

As a result, the U.S. Department of Justice took action. Today, DMH Partners has agreed to not only purchase the wet-land credits as stipulated under the original agreement, but have agreed to also pay a hefty fine. Overall, the company will be responsible in over $400,000 combined credit and fines.