High waves and heavy beach erosion caused the seawall in front of James and Denise O'Shea's North Shore home to collapse on September 3.
In the weeks that followed, the couple hired a construction crew and brought in boulders to repair it, but the Department of Land and Natural Resources now wants to fine them $75,000 for beginning repairs without first obtaining a a permit.
On Friday, the couple appeared before the state land board to defend their decision to start work.
"It collapsed suddenly and dramatically, jeopardizing the house, jeopardizing people on the beach," said Gregory Kugle, the O'Shea's lawyer. "It was an emergency situation. People’s lives and homes and houses are at stake."
A representative from DLNR says the O’Sheas defied an order to stop work that was issued back in September.
"We have essentially a seawall that was completely rebuilt, and it was done without any sort of permit from any government entity, any approval, any consent, on one of the most spectacular beaches in the planet," said Sam Lemmo, DLNR Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands administrator.
Tensions exploded when land board members challenged the family's argument.
"That's not our house!” shouted Denise O'Shea while a photo was shown to board members.
“I'm just showing the wall. Calm down," board member Keone Downing fired back.
“You come over here, you say your piece, you want us to believe you. But when we ask you the hard questions, who really did what, when… If you don't want to be forthright, and tell everything that happened, with all due respect counsel, nothing personal, you can't have it both ways," board member Stanley Roehrig told Kugle.
After more than an hour of argument, Kugle asked board members for a contested case hearing, which prevented a vote on the fine. The case could potentially last several more months.