Judge rules against Homer man

Posted: Thursday, August 07, 2003

A federal judge last month ordered a Homer man to remedy recent discharges of fill material into Stariski Creek.

Clarence Abeldgaard has until Aug. 22 to undo the damage the Environmental Protection Agency said he caused by illegally filling the stream to create a road crossing.

The order addresses a single incident that occurred in May, said EPA legal counsel David Allnutt. It is just one of many similar incidents currently under consideration in federal courts, he said.

Allnutt said that while developing three subdivisions adjacent to Stariski Creek, near Anchor Point Stariski Meadows, Happy Valley Five Acres and Pipers' Haven Abeldgaard and his construction company, Oceanview Enterprises, illegally filled more than 10 acres of wetlands between 1996 and 2002.

"Since 1996, Mr. Abeldgaard has been making improvements there," Allnutt said. "Quite a large portion of the roads and housing pads he's been building have been put into wetlands. To do that, you need appropriate permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He never got them.

"The Corps filed a federal lawsuit against Abeldgaard and got a judgment in their favor," he said. "As part of the deal, Abeldgaard committed to no more filling without a permit."

The EPA alleged that he continued filling, and in 2001, filed its own lawsuit. Cloyd Moser, who bought portions of the land from Abeldgaard, and his company, MoDeb Investments, are codefendants in the suit.

Allnutt said the EPA got a summary judgment in the case, but is waiting on a ruling. The case concerns nearly 25 alleged illegal fills, he said.

The recent court order addresses only a single incident in which the EPA said Abeldgaard dumped fill into a tributary of Stariski Creek. The fill prevents juvenile coho salmon from accessing approximately two miles of river habitat important for the cohos' growth, according to EPA spokesperson Bill Dunbar.

On July 21, a judge in a federal district court in Seattle ruled against Abeldgaard. The court's order gives Abeldgaard and Oceanview one month to complete corrective work, with the clock ticking as of the date of the ruling.

In 1996, Abeldgaard served time in jail after being convicted in state court for dumping materials into Stariski Creek. In 1998, he settled a subsequent enforcement action brought by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for illegal road-building activities. Dunbar said Abeldgaard has ignored a variety of cease-and-desist orders, information requests and EPA orders.

He currently is in contempt of a court order to comply with various information discovery requests made by the United States in this case, Dunbar said.

"If he doesn't remedy the damage as ordered by the court, he'll be in contempt of a judge's order," Allnutt said. "He's already in contempt of other judges' orders, but this one would be a little more serious. There would be legal ramifications."

Abeldgaard did not return calls to the Homer News.

Chris Bernard is the managing editor for the Homer News.

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