Milton landowner ordered to restore unlawfully filled wetland, pay penalty

December 21, 2021 - The Agency of Natural Resources Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced today that Ronnie M. Wells of Milton, was fined $27,819.50 for placing unauthorized fill into a wetland in violation of the Vermont Wetland Rules. 

Wetlands are places where land and water meet and are commonly known as bogs, marshes, and swamps. Wetlands often occur in association with open bodies of water like ponds and streams, but they can also be isolated from any obvious connection to open surface water. Vermont's wetlands support plants and wildlife that depend on wetland habitat and provide important water storage and filtration functions that protect water quality. The State of Vermont protects significant wetlands and their buffer zones (the area directly surrounding the wetland) by regulating certain activities that may cause damage to the wetland habitat or recreation or water quality functions.

In October 2015, DEC personnel responded to a complaint of wetland violations and, upon meeting with Mr. Wells, observed that he had placed a large amount of fill material into a wetland on his Milton property. Mr. Wells acknowledged that he knew the site was a wetland, and DEC personnel advised him to cease adding fill to the site. DEC responded again to complaints of continued filling of the wetland at Mr. Wells’ property in 2017 and 2018, each time confirming that more fill material had been added to the site. Mr. Wells did not have a permit to place fill in the wetland.

“Placing fill in a wetland directly damages habitat for wildlife and diminishes the wetland’s ability to store and filter water – functions essential to protecting Vermont’s water quality,” says Peter Walke, DEC Commissioner. “DEC works with landowners and project developers to avoid damage to the wetland’s functions through our permit program. Unauthorized filling of wetlands causes environmental harm, and when that occurs the wetlands need to be restored.”

To address the violations of the wetland rule and mitigate the damage to the Wetland, the Agency of Natural Resources issued an Administrative Order to Mr. Wells requiring a penalty and the restoration of the wetland which includes complete removal of the fill. Mr. Wells appealed the order to the Vermont Superior Court, Environmental Division, which affirmed the Agency’s Order on November 24, 2021. The Environmental Division’s Order imposed a $27,819.50 penalty. 

For more information about Vermont Wetlands, including a wetland screening tool for properties and the wetland permit program, visit: https://dec.vermont.gov/watershed/wetlands