Published on April 10th, 2015 | by The Kitsap Scene1
Man convicted for trying to divert the Tahuya River
A Mason County jury found a Tahuya man who tried to divert the Tahuya River guilty on all counts, the state attorney general’s office announced today in a press release.
Sentencing is set for April 17.
The Attorney General’s Office charged William Cayo, Sr., in Mason County District Court with three misdemeanor charges related to the alteration of the channel of the Tahuya River in early February 2013: violation of the water pollution control act, violation of the shoreline management act, and conducting unpermitted hydraulic activities.
Cayo used an excavator and bulldozer to fill the river channel near his home and redirect the river. In all, Cayo filled and graded nearly 1 ½ acres of river bed, the attorney general’s press release states.
His unauthorized work filled a channel of the river, removed a bend, and deepened and straightened another channel, according to the release.
He now faces up to 364 days in jail, a possible restitution order and up to $16,000 in fines.
“In dodging the proper environmental review and planning, Mr. Cayo did serious damage to the Tahuya River and put fish, wildlife, and his downstream neighbors at risk,” Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in the release. “I’m proud of the work of my Environmental Crimes team and our partner agencies to hold Mr. Cayo accountable.”
Ferguson recognized the work of the Environmental Protection Agency, including lead investigator Special Agent Eric Goetz, along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, state Department of Fish and Wildlife, Department of Ecology and Mason County.
“Safeguarding Washington state’s rivers and endangered wildlife from individuals who have no regard for the environment or the law is not just our mission but everyone’s responsibility,” said Special Agent-in-Charge Jay M. Green, head of EPA’s Criminal Enforcement program in Washington. “Through yesterday’s guilty verdict, the jury sent a clear message that when individuals intentionally damage our state’s waterways and aquatic wildlife, they will be held accountable for their crimes.”
“Safeguarding ESA-listed fish and wildlife populations is one of the agency’s top priorities,” said Assistant Director William Giles, NOAA Office of Law Enforcement. “This successful prosecution comes at a time when the importance of protecting critical habitat for salmon as well as steelhead is on the minds of many commercial and recreational fishermen throughout the Northwest.”
Testimony at trial indicated downstream landowners were affected and that Cayo’s work put a significant amount of suspended sediment in the river. This caused turbidity in the water, which harms salmon, steelhead and their eggs.
“Under state law, a property owner may work with the county and other agencies to develop a responsible, professional and effective hydraulic or shoreline project that protects both private property and our natural resources,” the release states. “Unpermitted and improperly designed work in a riverbed or on a shoreline, however, can damage neighboring properties, pollute the river, and kill fish.”
The Attorney General’s Office is prosecuting the case at the request of the Mason County Prosecutor’s Office. The lead prosecutor is Assistant Attorney General Bill Sherman.