SYRACUSE — The Army Corps of Engineers is investigating a wetland area in Syracuse after receiving calls from residents accusing the city of intentionally damaging the area to influence the route of the West Davis Corridor.
John Urbanic, senior project manager for the ACOE in the Utah Field Office, confirmed that an investigation began in late April regarding an area of wetlands adjacent to Bluff Road near Fremont Park.
“We’ve had a few different residents call us about it,” Urbanic said. “Basically, along the west side of Bluff Road there are some areas where it appears there has been some (dirt) filling on some wetlands areas.”
Syracuse Mayor Jamie Nagle and City Manager Bob Rice said they are aware of the investigation and are cooperating fully with the ACOE.
Urbanic also said his office has been in contact and working closely with the city.
Rice said the wetlands in question are on city-owned property and that contractors working for the city had placed some fill dirt in the area. The implication that the city would destroy wetlands to influence the route of the corridor is ridiculous, he said.
“That’s not even remotely true,” he said. “We’ve had some of our contractors in that area who may have unknowingly put some fill dirt down. As the investigation continues, we will do whatever is deemed necessary to fix things.”
Urbanic said that, in this case, if it’s deemed the wetlands were misused, possible penalties would likely only include fines, although additional expenses could be incurred by the city if the wetlands need to be restored.
When investigation is complete, ACOE will present its findings to the Environmental Protection Agency, which has the right of first refusal as to whether to pursue any sort of punitive action.
If EPA decides to take no action, the ACOE will be responsible for deciding penalties.
Urbanic said wetlands are important because they retain pollutants and sediments and act as a filter for clean water, as well as provide habitat for a variety of species.
Wetlands are protected under the Clean Water Act, and permits are required before they are used or altered in any way.
Urbanic said the investigation could take weeks to complete.