I-Team 10 Investigation: Town disturbs wetland

Posted at: 10/11/2013 5:07 PM
Updated at: 10/11/2013 5:44 PM

A local town's highway department ignores state regulations and drains a protected wetland. Now taxpayers are on the hook to fix the problem.

The Town of Perry in Wyoming County is facing a fine from the DEC and the cost of the lots of man hours to restore what it damaged. Several acres of protected wetland were drained dry off of Beardsley Road when highway crews opened up a beaver dam while working on a road project.

I-Team 10 found out the town knew it needed a permit to enter the sensitive area even before it broke open the dam.

This is not something you hear about everyday so I-Team 10 wanted to know if the town really did ignore state environmental laws and why. So I-Team 10 went to Perry and learned that taxpayer dollars meant for construction projects are now having to be used to repair a beaver dam.

Jason Andolina can't believe what has happened to his land. Just a few months ago, what passed through his property was a thriving wetland.

Andolina said, “When you make mistakes, you own up to it and you fix them. That's what you do."

He says it's a mistake the Town of Perry made and one it could have avoided. The Perry Town Highway Department was working on a drainage culvert, which carries water from the environmentally sensitive wetland from one side of Beardsley Road to the other. In order to make the repairs though, the highway superintendent needed to lower the water level. So his crew broke up this beaver dam that was holding the water in place.

Andolina said, "I realize their intentions were probably good to fix the road for the traffic, but it just turned into an ugly situation."

Andolina showed I-Team 10 pictures from his backyard. As the water receded, an estimated 1,000 fish were left behind to die. I-Team 10 has obtained this consent order from the Department of Environmental Conservation, which cited the Town of Perry Highway Department for disturbing the protected land and for failing to get a permit in doing so.

I-Team 10's Brett Davidsen asked, “When you found out all of this, what did you say to your highway superintendent?”

James Brick, Perry Town Supervisor, said, “Wasn't much I could say to him. It was done. In hindsight, it probably shouldn't have been."

The supervisor acknowledges his highway superintendent had begun the permit process, but went forward with the work before getting any approvals after becoming frustrated with the paperwork delays.

Davidsen said, “He must have known that he couldn't have done that then if he knew he had a process he needed to follow.”

Brick said, "I think what he was trying to figure out is, when they made the hole, are the beavers still there?"The DEC declined to comment for this story. The town supervisor was not sure just how many man hours would be needed to restore the wetland, but described it as minimal. In a letter to the DEC, the town believes it will have the repairs to the dam completed by December.