BANGOR (AP) – Two women face charges for allegedly damaging a beaver dam over the weekend in Penjajawoc Marsh, a controversial bog that helped shoot down Wal-Mart’s plans to build a store nearby.

Lucille DeBeck, 52, of Newburgh and Linda Query, 57, of Bangor were charged Sunday with tampering with a beaver dam and failure to have a permit to destroy a beaver dam, said Sgt. Doug Tibbetts of the Maine Warden Service.

Tibbetts said he checked on the marsh Sunday afternoon after receiving a report of water-level fluctuations last week.

When he arrived, he found the two women waist-deep in the stream with digging tools, he said. Tibbetts said he then discovered a 20-foot section of the 50-foot-long dam had been damaged.

“The damage could be very devastating this time of year,” Tibbetts said.

Bird nests located downstream could be flooded, while birds and nests upstream from the dam could be exposed to predators because of receding water levels, he said.

Query and DeBeck could not be reached for comment Monday.

Valerie Carter, spokeswoman for Bangor Area Citizens Organized for Responsible Development, said that Query is a spokeswoman for the Friends of Bangor Mall Area, and that DeBeck owns land near the Penjajawoc Marsh.

The marsh was at the center of a battle between the Friends of Bangor Mall Area, a group in favor of a developer’s plans to build a Wal-Mart Supercenter near the site, and Bangor Area Citizens Organized for Responsible Development, which opposed the development.

The Maine Board of Environmental Protection in March denied developers a site location permit, resolving a rancorous two-year dispute over whether the Wal-Mart store should be built.

In rejecting the application, the board cited its continued dissatisfaction with plans for mitigating damage to the environment and wildlife.

The women face up to one year in prison and up to $1,000 in fines if convicted of the criminal charge of failing to have a permit to destroy the dam. Fines on the civil charge of tampering with the dam range from $100 and $500. DeBeck’s and Query’s initial court appearances are scheduled for Aug. 4.

Tibbetts said the Maine Department of Environmental Protection could add charges of its own after its inspection of the dam.

Last July the same beaver dam was breached, and the resulting channel drained much of the 350-acre marsh. The DEP later cited a nearby landowner with violating the Natural Resources Protection Act.

Last week, when the BEP refused to reconsider its denial of a building permit, 60 acres of the marsh’s grassland was plowed for the cultivation of cow corn.

AP-ES-06-23-03 1249EDT

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