In January the Bay Conservation and Development Commission and the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board appealed decisions by a Solano County Superior Court Judge voiding $3.6 million in fines and cleanup and restoration requirements that the agencies imposed on the island’s owner for dumping excavation spoil in Suisun Bay and draining tidal wetland without authorization. The agencies held that due to the failure of previous owners to maintain levees, the interior of the island had become tidal marsh and could no longer be treated as managed wetland. In December, Judge Harry S. Kinnicutt accepted the contention of owner John Sweeney, who bought the 39-acre island in 2011, that the Regional Board was “hostile to duck clubs and the protection of waterfowl” and that BCDC had acted vindictively in fining Sweeney. Although Sweeney and his attorney Larry Bazel claim the site is being restored to its former function as a duck club, as previously reported in Estuary News, Sweeney promoted the venture as a kite-sailing resort and took no visible steps to manage the island for waterfowl. Among other points, McKissick accepted the plaintiff’s argument that the technical assessment on which the agencies relied lacked credibility because of inconsistent descriptions of tidal effects on the island. Erica Maharg of Baykeeper, which provided testimony at the agencies’ administrative hearings, said the nonprofit was “extremely disappointed and shocked by the trial court decision.” Maharg added: “Just because Mr. Sweeney owns the island, he does not have the right to ignore laws that all other property owners have to follow.” The Regional Board’s George Kostyrko says the agency “will pursue any action available to it to make sure the damage is remedied.”  JE

The battle of Point Buckler Island isn’t over yet.

In January the Bay Conservation and Development Commission and the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board appealed decisions by a Solano County Superior Court Judge voiding $3.6 million in fines and cleanup and restoration requirements that the agencies imposed on the island’s owner for dumping excavation spoil in Suisun Bay and draining tidal wetland without authorization. The agencies held that due to the failure of previous owners to maintain levees, the interior of the island had become tidal marsh and could no longer be treated as managed wetland. In December, Judge Harry S. Kinnicutt accepted the contention of owner John Sweeney, who bought the 39-acre island in 2011, that the Regional Board was “hostile to duck clubs and the protection of waterfowl” and that BCDC had acted vindictively in fining Sweeney. Although Sweeney and his attorney Larry Bazel claim the site is being restored to its former function as a duck club, as previously reported in Estuary News, Sweeney promoted the venture as a kite-sailing resort and took no visible steps to manage the island for waterfowl. Among other points, McKissick accepted the plaintiff’s argument that the technical assessment on which the agencies relied lacked credibility because of inconsistent descriptions of tidal effects on the island. Erica Maharg of Baykeeper, which provided testimony at the agencies’ administrative hearings, said the nonprofit was “extremely disappointed and shocked by the trial court decision.” Maharg added: “Just because Mr. Sweeney owns the island, he does not have the right to ignore laws that all other property owners have to follow.” The Regional Board’s George Kostyrko says the agency “will pursue any action available to it to make sure the damage is remedied.”  JE

About the author

Joe Eaton writes about endangered and invasive species, climate and ecosystem science, environmental history, and water issues for ESTUARY. He is also "a semi-obsessive birder" whose pursuit of rarities has taken him to many of California's shores, wetlands, and sewage plants.