Filling in wetlands proves very costly Violations bring 6 months in jail for engineer

April 16, 1991|By Kelly Gilbert | Kelly Gilbert,Evening Sun Staff

An April 16 story in The Evening Sun incorrectly reported a statement given by marine engineer William B. Ellen during a sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

The story should have stated that Ellen said he and Paul Tudor Jones II, owner of an Eastern Shore wildlife refuge for whom he worked, had decided to avoid development of wetlands where permits would be needed.

The Evening Sun regrets the error.

A marine construction engineer has been sentenced to six months in prison and four months on home detention for illegally filling 86 acres of wetlands on a New York multimillionaire's Dorchester County waterfowl hunting and game preserve.


"My purpose was to avoid any time delays," said defendant William B. Ellen, 44, of Mathews, Va., just before he was sentenced yesterday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Ellen said commodities trader Paul Tudor Jones II, owner of the 3,272-acre property known as Tudor Farms, "decided early on not to pay any attention" to the need for federal wetlands and anti-pollution permits because Jones wanted the project completed quickly.

Ellen, who managed the $15 million project, said he tried to develop the property in ways that did not require those permits. Plans called for construction of roads, a pond and a massive hunting lodge.

Prosecutors Ethan L. Bauman and Jane F. Barrett requested an 18-month prison term for Ellen, citing a need to deter others from similar activities.

Judge Frederic N. Smalkin sharply reduced that request, but told defense attorneys, who asked for a sentence of probation, that he was required by federal sentencing guidelines to put Ellen in jail.

Smalkin also imposed a year of supervised release and 60 days of community service on Ellen, to be served during and after his home detention.

The judge, noting bitterly that both sides probably will appeal the sentence he imposed, allowed the defendant to remain free pending completion of those appeals.

A federal jury convicted Ellen Jan. 4 of five felony water-pollution charges after hearing evidence that he repeatedly ignored warnings from environmental officials to stop work and to obtain permits for various wetlands work at Tudor Farms.

The jury acquitted Ellen of one count of illegal filling in a wetlands roadway on Tudor Farms site, which is near Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.

xTC Trial evidence showed that Ellen directed construction crews to fill tidal and non-tidal wetlands, to build roads and to carve out the pond with bulldozers in violation of the federal Clean Water Act, which requires federal approvals and permits for wetlands work.

The offenses occurred between October 1987 and March 1989. They continued for at least a year after Ellen received repeated warnings about getting permits and after he received a cease and desist order from the Army Corps of Engineers.

Bauman said yesterday that Ellen's unpermitted wetlands filling showed "blatant disregard" for environmental laws and "a clear attempt to circumvent the [federal] regulations."

Smalkin, however, said Ellen's convictions came on "regulatory offenses" and there was "no evidence" that contamination from the wetlands filling killed fish or animals, or endangered humans.

"It was destruction of habitat, which can be remediated," the judge said.

Smalkin also said state and Dorchester County officials failed to closely monitor the Tudor Farms development to prevent the wetlands filling.

Jones pleaded guilty last May to a misdemeanor criminal charge for violating the Clean Water Act by negligently and illegally filling the Tudor Farms wetlands. He paid a $1 million fine and $1 million restitution to the government in a plea bargain.

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