Wildlife refuge manager admits to violations

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UPTON – Nine months of controversy surrounding a proposed marina on Lake Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge have revealed state-alleged environmental violations committed by the refuge manager.

However, according to refuge manager Paul Casey, the violations involve renovations to his own private property, which he said is not part of and doesn’t impact protected areas of the refuge.

“From an environmental-damage standpoint, the scope of his project was fairly small,” Colin A. Clark, a Maine Department of Environmental Protection enforcement caseworker, said recently. “There’s a lot worse things going on out there, like people driving through streams with (logging) skidders, and filling in thousands of square feet of wetlands. But, I’m sure, to (Casey), it’s very serious.”

Casey’s home at 297 Mill Road is between the road and Dead Cambridge River, another state-protected resource which flows into the southeastern end of Umbagog at Peasley Cove. Clark said Casey’s property is a few hundred feet from the lake and river, along the banks of which, in 2006, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife created a 250-foot waterfowl protection zone.

Department wildlife biologist Chuck Hulsey in Strong said recently that Casey’s property was erroneously included in the state’s mapping of the river’s protected significant waterfowl or wading bird habitat.

“It’s mapped that way, but I’ve been on it, and it doesn’t meet that standard,” Hulsey said recently. “In reality, it’s not a waterfowl or bird habitat of high or moderate value.”

Clark, however, has yet to decide if Casey’s excavation in 1998 and 1999 and subsequent filling in of an estimated 726 square feet of road shoulder within 250 feet of the lake without first getting a required Maine Natural Resources Protection Act permit, violated protected wetlands.

On May 17, Clark visited Casey’s property. Then, on June 4, he required Casey to hire a wetland delineator to determine if the fill was placed into a protected wetland.

According to Casey, he filled a 10-foot-wide by 100-foot-long bank beside Mill Road with rocks to use as an offloading area for firewood logs with which to heat his more than 100-year-old home.

“I hired Main-Land Development Consultants Inc. of Livermore Falls, and they delineated it on Thursday and said it is 25 to 30 feet away from the wetland and, in some places, 50 feet away. So, that eliminates the second violation completely,” Casey said Friday.

That determination, however, is up to Clark and the DEP.

Regarding the first violation, Clark also cited the refuge manager for loaming and seeding an old gravel boat ramp road on his property that is within 75 feet of the Dead Cambridge without first getting a required permit.

Last month, Casey applied for – and was granted – an after-the-fact permit by rule to resolve that violation.

Casey said he fixed the road to prevent storm water from eroding it into the river.

“I did have violations. I did make a mistake. I top-dressed the road with gravel and seeded it to within 75 feet of the water and was supposed to get a permit. There’s no excuse for me not knowing the law,” Casey said.

The violations came up after former Upton code enforcement officer and Planning Board Chairman Robert Folsom forwarded a complaint in January to the DEP alleging that Casey had committed environmental violations on his property.

It was precipitated by Folsom’s attempt to create a marina on Umbagog Lake.

Last October, Folsom got a building permit from Upton planners for a proposed 24-slip marina on 50 feet of lake frontage in his four-acre property. Planners then revoked it a month later. In May, the town’s appellate body upheld the revocation.

Since then, both Folsom and Casey have accused the other of unethical behavior and other improprieties, including misrepresenting facts, and town and state laws regarding the marina and Folsom’s and Casey’s properties.

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