MORGANTOWN — Republican Senate candidate John Raese filled in wetlands and damaged more than 2 miles of streams when he rerouted them to create waterfalls on a private, 18-hole West Virginia golf course that federal regulators say he built without the required permits.
The years-long construction of Pikewood National Golf Club near Morgantown is "probably the biggest violation we've ever seen in this district," Sheila Tunney, spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Pittsburgh, told The Associated Press.
More than two years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency ordered Raese, the club's president, to develop a plan to mitigate the damage. Tunney says work on that plan is ongoing.
Raese, who's challenging incumbent Democrat Joe Manchin, recently called Pikewood "the nicest golf course in the United States" and a local job creator. He didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.
The millionaire businessman campaigns routinely on a platform that includes abolishing several federal agencies, including the EPA, and the government regulations that he says squelch economic development.
EPA officials have repeatedly declined to answer questions about the violations but did provide the AP a copy of a six-page compliance order issued in March 2010. The last page says EPA "reserves the right to seek any remedy available under the law," including pursuit of any civil or criminal charges it deems appropriate.
Tunney said the corps first learned about the 1,300-acre golf course, which sits on the Monongalia-Preston county border, from a farmer who complained he was no longer getting water from a local stream.
The course took several years to build, and aerial photos show the waterfalls are at par-3 fifth hole, dubbed "Mow Green." The website describes it as a small, peanut-shaped green with a limestone ledge on one side and a "reflection pond" on the other.