The Cambrian

Creek case headed for court

Three men accused by the state Department of Fish and Game of illegally altering Van Gordon Creek, a tributary to San Simeon Creek, are due in a San Luis Obispo County courtroom Monday, July 23.

Landowner Dave Robertson and associates Jef frey Brown and George Christidis plan to plead not guilty and begin the process of “setting the case over for further discussions” leading to working 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 to do, Stein said Tuesday.

Deputy District Attorney Kristy Imel is to present the state’s case that the men altered the stream — allegedly creating a large pond, building bridges and otherwise damaging the fragile habitat — without a permit.

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 spokesman for the DA’s office.

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 Monday. Brown was arraigned on July 9; his prehearing also is set for Monday. All are connected to Red Mountain Farms, Off the Grid and Centrally Grown, all corporations that own properties in Cambria, including The Hamlet at Moonstone Gardens.

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 wardens see a violation, he said, it’s most often “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.

—Kathe Tanner