- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 16, 2017

PUYALLUP, Wash. (AP) - A Pierce County landowner has been fined $90,000 after he destroyed forested wetlands that could take 50 years to restore.

The Washington state Department of Ecology says Richard Leone (Lee-O-nee) of Gig Harbor hired a contractor in 2016 to illegally drain, clear and fill two protected wetlands in order to expand a housing development.

Ecology manager Perry Lund said Wednesday that wetlands are critical to the overall health of Washington’s watersheds. He says Leone documented the wetlands in a report submitted to Pierce County, so he was fully aware of their locations and took specific steps to destroy them.

Leone didn’t return a message seeking comment. He has 30 days to pay the penalty or appeal the fine.

The Ecology order requires Leone to pay for the wetlands restoration.

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