Pflueger sued over
violations on Kauai land

The Earthjustice suit says he has
violated the Clean Water Act

By Anthony Sommer

LIHUE >> An environmental watchdog group has sued retired auto dealer Jimmy Pflueger on behalf of two Kauai citizens groups.

The lawsuit, filed by Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, asks a U.S. District Court judge to issue an order prohibiting any further construction at Pflueger's Pilaa subdivision until he obtains a storm-water permit, installs erosion control measures and restores the bluff overlooking Pilaa Beach.

Heavy rain last November caused a massive mudslide on the face of the bluff where Pflueger had been building a road to the beach, without any of the required county, state and federal permits. Pflueger has been preparing the property to sell as a luxury home subdivision, a plan that now appears to be dead.

Pflueger said yesterday he had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment on it specifically.

But he said that all of the things Earthjustice is requesting the court to order already are taking place.

Deputy Kauai County Engineer Ian Costa also said the lawsuit may be moot because the U.S. Environmental Agency and Hawaii Department of Health are expected to issue a cleanup plan this week.

The state Department of Land & Natural Resources and the Kauai County Planning Department are about to issue orders requiring Pflueger to completely restore the face of the bluff to its original condition, Costa said.

"If that happens, that's good," said Earthjustice attorney David Henkin.

"But the lack of government response since November means we aren't going to count on that happening."

In the lawsuit, Henkin pointed out that the environmental group gave both federal and state officials written notice of the alleged violations of the Clean Water Act on June 1. Neither the EPA nor the Department of Health has taken Pflueger to court, he noted.

The mudslide caused large amounts of mud to flow out onto the coral reef off of Pilaa Beach. The lawsuit claims mud continues to flow onto the reef with every heavy rain, an allegation Pflueger denied.

The Clean Water Act allows individuals and organizations to file lawsuits against alleged offenders if government agencies fail to take action, Henkin said.

The suit was filed on behalf of the Limu Coalition of Hanalei, which has been involved in numerous environmental protests against developers, and the Kilauea Neighborhood Association, which has members representing at least some segments of the Kilauea area.

Pflueger has been cited by the government agencies, but no penalties have been assessed. The county has the power to file misdemeanor criminal charges against him for grading without a permit, but no action has been taken to date.

Pflueger also has been sued by Rick and Amy Marvin, who own a home on the beach below the bluff. Their property was covered deep in mud when the hillside collapsed in November.

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