Passed in 1972, the Clean Water Act, also known as the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972, was considered to be a radical departure from previous federal water-quality legislation because it transformed how society viewed their impact on the environment on a whole.

Section 404, which focuses specifically on the maintenance and creation of wetlands in the United States, has become a considerable tipping point for many companies over the last few decades, say some. As land in urban areas diminishes, many companies are forced to build in different areas, sometimes threatening the integrity of the wetlands around them in the process.

By failing to abide by Section 404, a Michigan company can break federal as well as state laws, which could leave many businesses in legal hot water. Such was the case for a Minnesota company who was fined this month by the federal government for abandoning several acres of wetlands without properly fulfilling their initial permit in return.

According to the complaint filed by the federal government, the company was permitted to build commercial property on a particular plot of wetland in 2008 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In return, the company was required to buy off-site wetlands. But after abandoning the site, investigators discovered that the company had not adhered to the original terms of the permit.

As a result, the company has been fined $75,000 and must also buy roughly $340,000 in “wetland credits” which will replace the wetlands that were filled during the building of the commercial property.

Legal problems like this are relatively common when building new properties in Michigan because there are so many federal and state laws to look out for. Real estate attorneys who have the necessary knowledge in this subject area are excellent resources when it comes to making sure that you and your company are abiding by all the laws. They are also incredibly helpful in situations such as the one above because they can get you through the legal process with relative ease.

Source: The Star Tribune, “Feds tap Wayzata company for more than $400k for abandoning wetland,” Paul Walsh, Mar. 13, 2013

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