Florida DEP reaches agreement with Ponte Vedra Beach landowners over beach scraping violations


The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently reached an agreement with four Ponte Vedra Boulevard residents, including the CEOs of United Airlines and Web.com, to resolve allegations against them for illegally excavating beach sand on their properties.

Following an investigation, DEP official Dee Ann Miller said the department determined the residents violated DEP guidelines regarding sand scraping activity. Miller noted in an email to the Recorder that the department addressed the allegations by negotiating short-form consent orders with the residents. A consent order, Miller said, is a legally enforceable agreement for violations that warrant a formal enforcement action.

According to documents obtained by the Recorder, Catherine Munoz — the wife of United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz — offered to resolve the situation by offering a $24,000 voluntary contribution to the Water Quality Assurance Trust Fund, and to reimburse the department's costs. The document also stated that her offer was not an admission of any liability for the property owner’s alleged violations.

"The department takes instances of non-compliance seriously and we will hold offenders accountable if violations are found," Miller said. "DEP has a number of enforcement tools we are able to use to address violations. While fines and penalties are one enforcement tool, enforcement can also be requiring necessary restoration and/or remediation actions through a compliance assistance offer, consent order or other enforcement mechanism. The nature of the violation and circumstances surrounding the event are used in the determination of which one is best suited."

In addition to Oscar and Catherine Munoz, Web.com CEO David Brown and Margaret Conolly will each pay $24,000 to resolve the situation. The other property owner, Christopher Aitken, will pay $33,000. According to the DEP documents, each resident stated that their monetary offer did not constitute an admission by the property owner of liability for the DEP violations.