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Friday, August 9, 2013 - 12:30pm

King America Settles With Landowners

King America Finishing has announced dozens of settlements with landowners along the Ogeechee River.

The company at the center of lawsuits stemming from a massive fish kill also says it's restocking the river with a key species.

The company and some of the law firms for the landowners will pay $250,000 over five years to re-stock the river with hundreds of thousands of juvenile American shad.

Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Biologist Chris Harper says the species is a recreational fish that also serves as the base of a larger food chain critical for the river's overall health.

"The populations have really declined all over the East Coast," Harper says. "This will just give us an opportunity to hep the population that's out there and spur it along."

Harper says the shad restocking amounts to a couple hundred thousand fish per year over the five-year program.

"They serve as a food source for numerous other fish species in the river," Harper says. "They're the base for getting your other species going strong and healthy."

The settlements end lawsuits landowners filed after King America illegally discharged waste into the river.

The financial terms of the settlements are undisclosed.

"We are so pleased that we have been able to resolve this dispute with so many of our neighbors," said King America's President Mike Beasley. "We expect to be neighbors for a long time, and we needed to find a way to peacefully share the same community."

Attorney Greg Hodges of Oliver Maner LLP, who represents many of the landowner plaintiffs, echoed King America's satisfaction with the settlement.

"We worked long and hard to come to terms that everyone could live with," he said.

About 38,000 fish died over a matter of days in May 2011.

The Ogeechee Riverkeeper still has a separate lawsuit against the company pending in federal court.