PORT ORCHARD — The developer of Stetson Heights, a 103-acre property slated for 304 single-family homes off Glenwood Road west of Highway 16, has been fined $202,500 and ordered to take corrective action by the Washington State Department of Ecology.
Stetson Heights LLC was disciplined by WSDOE July 8 after it was determined to have caused significant damage to wetlands that flow to streams with runs of salmon and steelhead trout in Port Orchard.
According to the state agency, Stetson Heights LLC cleared more than 80 steeply sloped acres on Glenwood Road Southwest in 2018 without protecting the bare ground from stormwater erosion. The agency said that stormwater from rains last fall flowed from the cleared land as muddy water. By late fall, WSDOE said, up to 4 feet of mud covered parts of wetlands and streams on — and adjacent to — the project property.
The City of Port Orchard shut down all work on the project except for the construction of stormwater control measures required under WSDOE’s water quality permit and the November 2018 order. The shutdown lasted from December until last month, but the site still lacks many required stormwater protections.
“I support the Department of Ecology’s actions,” Port Orchard Mayor Rob Putaansuu said. “It’s an unfortunate step when fines and stop-work orders become necessary to correct egregious behavior.”
Putaansuu said the developer’s erosion controls were inadequate, despite the efforts of city staff members to communicate with the company over the past year in an attempt to correct their violations to the WSDOF’s permit. The mayor said city staff unsuccessfully communicated their concerns more than 60 times over the past year.
“This damage was avoidable,” said Heather Bartlett, WSDOE’s water quality program manager.
“Stetson Heights should have cleared the site in phases. Last July, we found immense bare slopes on the site, with little to no protection on the ground, just weeks before the autumn rains. The developer was unresponsive to Ecology and city staff when we worked to reduce the risks and prevent this damage.”
Stetson Heights is a master planned community owned by Anastasiou Development LLC of Clyde Hill, Washington. The company’s co-founders and principals — Stavros Anastasiou and Colleen Anastasiou — did not return telephone or email messages left at their office.
The state agency has ordered Stetson Heights to halt construction until it can show the site meets the stormwater requirements. The order also directs the developer to restore, under WSDOE’s oversight, the wetlands and streams and monitor how well those habitats recover over 10 years or until the agency declares the restoration complete.
The affected wetlands feed into Ruby Creek, which contains coho salmon and cutthroat trout, then to Blackjack Creek, which contains steelhead trout, a federally listed threatened species.
The fine issued by WSDOE lists 15 violations, several occurring multiple times, the agency said.
“The company disregarded 11 construction stormwater general-permit requirements and violated four parts of a November 2018 order to put those protections in place,” said Larry Altose, the agency’s communication manager.
Altose said muddy water can harm fish because the particles can damage their gills.
“Silt buildup also smothers stream habitat where adult fish deposit eggs and juveniles forage for food,” he said. “Silt also disrupts the natural functions of wetlands to filter sediments and other pollutants from surface water runoff, and control flooding.”
The agency said water quality penalty payments go to the state’s Coastal Protection Fund, from which the agency issues grants to local and tribal governments, state agencies and public benefit nonprofit organizations for water quality restoration projects.