- Associated Press - Saturday, April 18, 2015

SHELTON, Wash. (AP) - A Tahuya man was sentenced to 30 days in jail and ordered to pay more than $8,000 in fines for redirecting the Tahuya River at his property.

Mason County District Court Judge Stephen Greer sentenced William Kenneth Cayo on Friday. A jury found Cayo guilty earlier this month of unlawful hydraulic project activities, unlawful shoreline activity and unlawful water pollution that caused harm to the river and its habitat in 2013, according to the Kitsap Sun (https://is.gd/OruHvJ ).

Greer said there are numerous victims in this case, including the state’s taxpayers, Mason County residents, agencies that have worked to restore fish runs in the Tahuya River and Cayo himself. Greer also ordered Cayo to pay $8,143 in fines. The most he could have been fined for those charges was $16,000.

“(Cayo) acted in the best way he thought could protect his home,” Greer said at the sentencing. “The bottom line is with the evidence this court heard, thousands of fish that would’ve existed on the river are no longer here . Individuals can’t act alone. This isn’t the 1800s anymore.”

Cayo’s lawyer, Gordon Jenkins, had argued before the sentencing that Cayo acted out of desperation, not malice. Jenkins said Cayo wanted to protect his home when the river came within 10 feet of his property.

“He watched for years the bank getting eaten away and eaten away,” Jenkins said. “He felt it was necessary for him to do what he needed to do . he did not intend harm to anyone or anything.”

Cayo said he’d already lost a small cabin to the river.

“Growing up on rivers and creeks, there’s a whole lot more to it than living there,” he said. “There is a responsibility . I never wanted to do anything to the river. I was just forced to do what I had to do to save my house. I don’t regret it. It gave me two more years to live there.”

The Tahuya River is classified as a state shoreline and any work to it also requires a shoreline permit from Mason County.

Cayo, 56, filled and graded nearly 1 ½ acres of river bed, filling one river channel, removing a bend and deepening and straightening another channel.

Assistant Attorney General William Sherman argued at sentencing that Cayo’s actions rendered useless the state and county’s ongoing efforts to restore fish runs to the Tahuya River.

Citing a report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Cayo’s actions likely resulted in the death of 1,995 fish, including 1,348 coho salmon and 65 steelhead, and exposed more than 11,000 coho to direct fill effects in the wet area of the riverbed, Sherman said.

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Information from: Kitsap Sun, https://www.kitsapsun.com/

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