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A Washington man is facing three misdemeanor charges after using a bulldozer in an attempt to alter the course of a river on his property.
William Cayo Sr. was charged with three state environmental violations after authorities determined he had moved more than 5,700 square meters of river bed from the Tahuya River in western Washington, Reuters reports. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Police's incident report notes that Mr. Cayo could "own the property under the water, and on both sides of the water," but that doing so "does not allow for him to move the waters of the state and divert the river.
"The water, resources, and fish in the water are property of the state," the report continues.
Charged With Violations of Water Pollution, Shoreline Regulations
According to the criminal complaint filed against Cayo, he is being charged with unlawful water pollution for dumping soil and gravel in the river. Unlawful water pollution is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a $10,000 fine. If convicted, Cayo may be also be required to pay restitution.
Cayo is also charged unlawful hydraulic project activities for failing to obtain a proper permit for his project, a misdemeanor punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. Washington also has a Shoreline Management Act that applies to the shores of all streams and rivers. Cayo is charged with violating this act as well; a conviction could result in 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
In addition to any state regulations, property owners, business owners, and individuals must generally adhere to federal environmental laws. These include the federal Clean Water Act, the objective of which is to "restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation's waters."
Like in Cayo's case, violation of these environmental regulations can result in jail time or large fines. In 2013, for example, retailer Walmart agreed to pay more than $110 million in fines for violations of the Clean Water Act and other federal environmental regulations after the retailer admitted to illegally disposing of hazardous materials at its stores into local sewer systems.
While Cayo has been charged, news reports did not include any comments from Cayo himself. It's not clear what defenses, if any, the landowner may intend to assert.