Gig Harbor landowner fined for destroying wetlands

PUYALLUP, Wash. -- A Pierce County landowner has been fined $90,000 after he destroyed forested wetlands that could take 50 years to restore.

The Washington state Department of Ecology says Richard Leone of Gig Harbor hired a contractor in 2016 to illegally drain, clear and fill two protected wetlands in order to expand a housing development.

Ecology manager Perry Lund said Wednesday that wetlands are critical to the overall health of Washington's watersheds. He says Leone documented the wetlands in a report submitted to Pierce County, so he was fully aware of their locations and took specific steps to destroy them.

Leone didn't return a message seeking comment. He has 30 days to pay the penalty or appeal the fine.

The Ecology order requires Leone to pay for the wetlands restoration.