Republican candidate John Raese is purported to have filled in wetlands and damaged more than two miles of streams when he rerouted them to create waterfalls for his Pikewood National Golf Club in Morgantown, W. Va. Raese, who is running for office on a platform of removing governmental regulatory agencies, says the EPA is “terrorizing business.”
Federal regulators are saying Republican Senate candidate John Raese filled in wetlands and damaged more than two miles of streams when he rerouted them to create waterfalls for Pikewood National Golf Club in Morgantown, W. Va., the Associated Press reported.
Sheila Tunney, spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Pittsburgh, said the construction of the private, 18-hole golf course is “probably the biggest violation we’ve ever seen in this district.”
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ordered Raese, the club’s President, to develop a plan to mitigate the damage more than two years ago. Tunney said implementation of that plan is ongoing, the AP reported.
“EPA believes that several years ago, Pikewood National Golf Club disturbed some wetlands or other areas technically considered to be ‘waters of the United States’ under the federal Clean Water Act,” Greer Industries Vice President and General Counsel J. Robert Gwynne said in a statement that was released on October 8th. Raese is the President and CEO of Greer, a steel and limestone producer, the AP reported.
“Pikewood believed it had complied with all applicable laws at the time of its construction activities and is working with the EPA to resolve all outstanding issues,” Gwynne added.
Raese’s campaign platform includes abolishing several federal agencies, including the EPA, and the government regulations that he says stunt economic development, the AP reported.
The final page of the EPA’s compliance order issued in March 2010 indicated the agency “reserves the right to seek any remedy available under the law,” including pursuit of any civil or criminal charges it deems appropriate.
Tunney said the Corps learned of the 1,300-acre golf course from a farmer who complained he was no longer getting water from a local stream, the AP reported.
“Designed to fit the lay of the land, Pikewood National has a natural look,” its website proclaims. “In fact, the only earth that was disturbed in the making of this course was that used to build greens and tees, and the rest of the land is allowed to lie as God intended it.”
The corps said the waterfalls and ponds are not natural, but were created by rerouting waterways, the AP reported.
“I can only assume what they mean is they kept the natural forest around it, which they did,” said Jon Coleman, a project manager in the Corps’ regulatory branch who has been investigating the work since mid-2009.
Coleman said the construction diverted, buried or otherwise disturbed nearly 2.3 miles of streams and about one-seventh of an acre of wetlands. He said workers also built dams that disrupted Laurel Run, a tributary of Deckers Creek, the AP reported.
“The ponds and stuff, those are some of the big violations,” Coleman said. Reconstructing the damage is difficult, he added, because it occurred so long ago and would be “like an autopsy.”
According to law, Raese should have sought a permit to place dredge and fill material in waterways under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, the same section used by mining companies. Raese owns a quarry as well, the AP reported.
Raese suggested during a debate that the EPA and the Corps are trying to punish him, accusing the EPA of “terrorizing business.” Pikewood, which he did not mention by name, is an example of valuable job creation, he added.
“You know what happens to me?” Raese said in the debate. “Right now, the EPA and the Army Corps are my new partner because they’re up there every day. Fines. Looking at me, for what? I don’t know. I built it on 1,300 acres and they’re looking at probably 20 feet by 30 feet.
“Can you imagine this, when you try to create something that’s so beautiful and so pretty and has won so many awards?” he added. “My award is that I’m chastised by government.”
Golf Digest ranked Pikewood as the best new private course of 2009, noting its membership initiation fee was $30,000, the AP reported.
“We wanted to feature the natural terrain and the rock formations on the property,” said Gwynne in an interview with Links magazine. “After all, we are in the rock business. We wanted to make the most natural course we could.”