Three men accused of illegally altering a tributary to San Simeon Creek are due in a San Luis Obispo County courtroom today.
The men altered the Van Gordon Creek, allegedly creating a large pond, building bridges and otherwise damaging the fragile habitat without a permit, said county Deputy District Attorney Kristy Imel.
Landowner Dave Robertson and associates Jeffrey Brown and George Christidis plan to plead not guilty and begin the process of “setting the case over for further discussions,” hoping to work out an agreement under which they would remediate any damage done, said their attorney, Jeffrey Stein.
“This isn’t going to be about getting into a big fight about what’s right. It’s to do what’s right,” after getting a consensus about what’s appropriate and necessary, Stein said.
Robertson also is charged with polluting the water with elements that “would be harmful to animal life, fish life or bird life,” said Jerret Gran, a District Attorney’s Office spokesman.
Several agencies and state coastal protection laws have identified San Simeon Creek as having environmentally sensitive riparian and wetland habitats for federally protected species.
Robertson and Christidis are to appear for their arraignment today. Brown was arraigned July 9; his prehearing is set for today. All are connected to Red Mountain Farms, Off the Grid and Centrally Grown, corporations that own properties in Cambria, including The Hamlet at Moonstone Gardens, a restaurant currently closed for remodeling.
Gran said, “We don’t get a whole lot of these kinds of cases ... Fish and Game doesn’t file a lot of them.”
Usually, when state Department of Fish and Game wardens see a violation, he said, it’s “someone doing something — for a lack of a better term — innocently, and most people are pretty cooperative” about rectifying the matter.
But some situations, especially those with serious damage, can’t be rectified. Fish and Game Lt. Todd Tognazzini said this case had warranted detailed investigation, including by one of the agency’s environmental scientists.