CONCORD, N.H. (AP) – Gov. Craig Benson agreed Friday to pay a $2,000 fine for illegally grading sand at his oceanfront home in Rye.

The agreement follows an investigation by the state Department of Environmental Services that found Benson had hired a contractor to move sand along the beach without a permit.

The investigation concluded that no restoration was required on Benson’s property as long as the sand is allowed to accumulate naturally in the future.

Benson said Friday he was sorry for any inconvenience he’d caused but he was led to believe it was okay to move the sand. He said he’d been grading the beach for several years without problems.

The state investigation was prompted by Rye Building Inspector Susan Whitaker who discovered a contractor on the beach moving sand with an excavator on May 23.

Contractor Brett Smith of B.W. Smith Excavation Inc. told her Benson had instructed him to level the sand in front of his house and for any of his neighbors who asked him to and that he had permission from the attorney general’s office to do it.

Whitaker contacted state environmental officials, who investigated and found the work had violated state law .

The agreement notes the department issued a “letter of deficiency” in November of 1998 when Benson excavated along the same beach without a permit. That letter informed Benson that a wetlands permit was required for any future activity.

Lawyer Donald Pfundstein, who negotiated the agreement for Benson, said the governor could have challenged the fine based on the wording of the wetlands law but decided against that.

State environmental officials could not be reached for comment.

AP-ES-07-11-03 1858EDT

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