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White lady's slipper (Cypripedium candidum) courtesy of Jay Sturner/Creative Commons.

White lady's slipper (Cypripedium candidum) courtesy of Jay Sturner/Creative Commons.

Hugo Company Pays $20,000 For Disturbing Vegetation
at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge

United States Attorney Andrew M. Luger today announced that LAMETTI & SONS, INC. agreed to pay a $10,000 fine and an additional $10,000 in restitution to the non-profit group Refuge Friends, Inc., to resolve allegations in a criminal petty offense citation charging it with one count of disturbing plants during the summer of 2014 in the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Bloomington, Minn.

According to the citation and documents filed in court, LAMETTI was awarded a contract by the Metropolitan Council Environmental Services Burnsville Interceptor Improvements Project for a multi-year construction project to reline sewer pipes on the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Bloomington. A Special Use Permit with specific limitations was incorporated into the construction plans to protect nearby areas of threatened and special-concern plants within the Refuge, which were delineated with signs that read, “Protected Native plants in this area do not enter or disturb.”

According to the violation notice and other court documents, on July 17, 2014, a concerned citizen reported to local wildlife agencies that a large amount of dead vegetation, which potentially included threatened prairie plants such as tobacco root and the small white lady’s-slipper, had been discovered within the Refuge.

On July 18, 2014, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) agents and a Metropolitan Council representative investigated the area in which dead vegetation was reported. USFWS agents also noted an additional location of standing water containing dead wildlife directly adjacent to one of the construction sites, which emitted a strong chemical odor. About one week later, a USFWS agent observed that the standing water adjacent to the construction site had dissipated and left approximately 6,229 square feet of dead vegetation.

In a memo dated July 24, 2014, a LAMETTI project manager responded to the Metropolitan Council’s inquiries and stated that up to an estimated 24,000 gallons of heated cure water were released at two separate project construction sites within the Refuge due to a problem with the installation process of the liners on the sewer pipes on two separate dates. The heated cure water release was unauthorized and went unreported prior to the investigation. According to the Special Conditions of the Special Use Permit, the permit holder was required to report all damage to lands within 24 hours of the incident.

“A large portion of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge is urban and provides valuable habitat for a wide range of plants and wildlife,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Refuge Law Enforcement Officer Scott Pariseau. “Another benefit to our urban refuge is the unique opportunity we provide for the community to enjoy and appreciate wildlife-related recreation close to home. It’s unfortunate that despite all of the planning and permitting to mitigate resource damage from this project, damages to important habitat occurred. We are however pleased to see that the contractor was held responsible for the damage they caused to this public resource.”

The citation issued is the result of an investigation conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Bejar.

Republished with permission from United States Attorney’s Office, District of Minnesota.

Last updated: June 8, 2020