KAUAI DAM BREAK
DAVID SINTON / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-BULLETIN
Kauai police stood guard on a foundation of shed that was swept away at Morita Reservoir Dam following yesterday's Ka Loko Reservoir Dam disaster.
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Pflueger had started work on dam that broke
The landowner was making improvements to the reservoir as part of a settlement
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LIHUE » Ka Loko Reservoir was in the process of getting a face lift, thanks to Kauai landowner James Pflueger.
Pflueger, as part of a record $7.8 million environmental settlement announced just last week, had begun to put in "stabilization measures" and vegetation planted to control storm water runoff, according to the Environmental Protection Agency's fact sheet that accompanied the settlement announcement. The work was supposed to be completed by October.
He was required to do the work after his employees cleared land, cut slopes and graded areas to the north, east and southeast of the reservoir without permits over a 10-year period, according to the EPA.
The county Planning Department also issued grading violations notices for work done in the area in 1997 and again in 2002. Later that year, EPA and state health inspectors found new construction near the reservoir, an EPA statement from 2002 stated.
Kauai County Engineer Donald Fujimoto said the county is looking into whether Pflueger's illegal grading near the Ka Loko Reservoir in 2002 might have had anything to do with yesterday's disaster.
Don Heacock, state Department of Land and Natural Resources marine biologist, said that stream beds had also been altered in the Ka Loko area, going back to 1993.
But perhaps more importantly, Heacock said that someone might have filled in the spillway, keeping more water than normal inside the reservoir.
"I'm not blaming anybody, but this needs to be investigated," Heacock added.
Pflueger called the event an "unpredictable natural disaster caused by extreme weather," and said in an e-mail statement that he was "devastated" and that he raced to Kauai when he heard of the flood.
"We are in shock and sadness over the loss of life from the torrent of water that escaped from the century-old reservoir partially on property we own," he added.