State fines landowner $90,000 for destroying Pierce County wetlands

PUYALLUP, Wash. -- The Department of Ecology said it fined a landowner $90,000 after he hired a contractor to illegally drain, clear and fill two protected wetlands.

The department said Richard Leone of Gig Harbor knowingly destroyed the 1.5 acres of forested wetlands which could take up to 50 years to restore.

He was hoping to expand a planned housing development, authorities said.

“Wetlands are critical to the overall health of Washington’s watersheds,” says Perry Lund, section manager for Ecology’s Shorelands and Environmental Assistance program. “Mr. Leone documented the wetlands in a report submitted to Pierce County, so he was fully aware of their locations and took specific, targeted steps to destroy them.”

Leone will also be required to pay for all costs related to restoring the wetlands.

"The original fieldwork that led to the delineation report on the Puyallup property at 17320 82nd Ave. E began in 2005 and identifies the two wetlands," an ecology official wrote in a statement. "In 2014, the landowner was approved by Pierce County for a 48-lot, preliminary plat detailing the protection of the wetlands and their required buffers. The illegal actions taken by Leone to destroy the wetlands were to support full development of the property.

Leone has also received two civil penalties of $1,000 and $4,000 from Pierce County for willfully destroying the wetlands. The county also revoked the preliminary plat that allowed the new development, and currently Leone will not be able to develop on any portion of the property.