The Kenai River flows by the newly restored riverbank of Dow Island on Saturday, May 27, 2017 in Funny River, Alaska. A group of four property owners banded together this spring to install the extensive project to protect the bank of the island in the Kenai River from rapid erosion. (Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion, file)

Hearings on Dow Island habitat violation case pushed back

A court case against three men who are accused of illegally dumping gravel in the Kenai River this summer is stretching out into the fall as the state and Kenai Peninsula Borough sort out hearings.

The charges against Steve Flick of Missouri, Jason Foster of Soldotna and Joe Losciuto of Eagle River in state court have wound their way through multiple pretrial conferences with no significant progress so far. At a Nov. 2 hearing, attorney Katherine Elsner, representing Flick, asked for a continuation because the borough was working on its own legal process.

Elsner said at the hearing she thought the municipal charges may resolve the criminal charges. Kenai District Court Judge Sharon Ilsley agreed to postpone the hearing, giving the borough time to pursue its own process. The next pretrial conference for the case was set for Jan. 11, 2018, according to Courtview.

The borough, meanwhile, had a hearing scheduled for Nov. 20 but had to postpone it and has not set another date yet, said Donald E. Gilman River Center Manager Tom Dearlove.

The charges date back to an incident in June when Flick, who had served as general contractor for a riverbank revetment project on Dow Island in the Kenai River earlier in the spring, contracted Foster’s business North Star Paving to shore up a bank that had been damaged by a fallen tree. A fallen tree had damaged a section of the bank in front of Losciuto’s property and the root wad placed there as part of the revetment was in danger of coming loose, according to the affidavit filed with the initial charges.

As an emergency action to preserve the bank from eroding further and not wanting to wait for the permit process, Flick contracted with North Star Paving to place rock below the mean high water line on the river along the bank. A worker also allegedly placed gravel into a slough area to allow equipment to cross the slough to the island, according to the affidavit.

Flick is charged with four counts of the improper protection of fish and game, all class A misdemeanors, all related to contracting North Star Paving to place the gravel in the river and building the gravel ramp on the channel, two counts of interference with a salmon spawning stream, which is an unclassified misdemeanor, and two counts of violating the terms of a special park use permit.

Foster is charged with three counts of improper protection of fish and game, one count of interference with a salmon spawning stream, an unclassified misdemeanor, and one charge of violating the terms of a special park use permit, also an unclassified misdemeanor.

The charge against Losciuto, which is one count of violating the terms of his special park use permit, an unclassified misdemeanor, is still open, though Courtview lists the process as cancelled on Sept. 6.

The Kenai River is a multijurisdictional body of water, overseen by Alaska State Parks, the Kenai Peninsula Borough, the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Habitat Division. Any project within 50 feet of the riverbank or in the river requires a permit through the River Center, where all the various agencies have offices. The borough’s action would be related to the 50-foot protection zone around all anadromous streams in the borough.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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